Monday, 22 December 2014

Poppyfields Annual Challenge Team

Life is a challenge. The luckiest of us get to choose our challenges and our lives are not on the line if we fail. Sadly, not everyone is as lucky. Many have challenges forced on them. Often the challenge of surviving a serious illness. Not too long ago a child diagnosed with a brain tumour had an impossible challenge to overcome but thanks to places like Birmingham Children's Hospital and the work of experts like Dr Peet the odds are turning. My niece Poppy was diagnosed with a huge brain tumour when she was 14 months old. She had her first operation within days of diagnosis and was given a 50/50 chance of surviving the operation. After a further three operations (the last in 2012) and radiotherapy and chemotherapy her tumour is a negligible 0.01% of what it once was. It has meant that Poppy is now in her first year of secondary school and thriving. Poppyfields was set up to raise money for Birmingham Children's Hospital and their research and treatment of child brain tumours.

In 2013 we tried to have a bit of fun and exercise everyday in January and raise a bit of money. That steamrolled into a year of exercise and about £2000 being raised. In 2014 we planned to log our exercise miles and exercise the equator. We managed that by mid February and so over the course of the rest of the year we have logged enough exercise miles to reach the moon! 217,000 miles, £3,200 raised and counting!

The 2015 challenge has a new FB home, a new Justgiving page, a new structure and a new logging system. The aim is still to get fit and raise money but with a set of personal challenges within the challenge.

The Challenge is to exercise everyday in 2015 and pay a charity fine of £1 for each day we miss up to a maximum of £5 per month.
You define your exercise so it can be a 50 mile run or a 1 mile shuffle. It can be 10 press ups or a 2 hour weights session in the gym. It can be a Zumba marathon or a 30 mins yoga class! Its your challenge and your exercise so don't fret that you've got to break yourself everyday. Rest days are important and its easy to exercise on a rest day too.
Each month we set ourselves an individual target. A public target! We set it for our circumstances that month. There are no restrictions and you are your judge as to whether you pass your challenge. It is entirely based on your honesty. Of course if you cheat then you're only cheating yourself. If at the end of the month you have passed your challenge then you get a daily exercise fine exemption for the following month. If you fail your challenge you pay a £5 charity fine.
The challenges are yours. They are limitless based on your imagination. Some examples could be
Run 100 miles
Ski 10 times
Cycle everyday at least 5 miles
Swim 5 miles
Do the 30 day plank challenge
Complete a level of insanity
Attend 10 Zumba classes
Race 4 official half marathons
Do 2 unofficial marathons in a month
Learn to swim
Walk a mile a day
Lose half a stone
Increase max lift in the Gym by 20%
Row 20 miles
Hit the cross trainer everyday
Go to the gym 4 times a week
Do every parkrun this month
Improve a PB by 10%
To not use the car to go to the local shop for a month
Run 3 times a week with a friend
Do Outlaw on a BMX
Commute by bike each day
Swim as a family every weekend
etc etc etc etc
Hopefully you can use your imagination to test yourself and have fun with it. The options for a challenge are endless and can be as easy or as hard as you want for that particular month.
You put your challenge up at the start of each month and at the end of the month either confirm you hit or missed your challenge and confirm the next months challenge. If you have failed a challenge you might want to have another go at it or you may have a different challenge each month in mind.
The aim is for us all to improve ourselves and raise money to help improve the lives of others less fortunate than ourselves.
If you want to register and do nothing but pay a tenner a month then that's fine with me. Anyone can join at anytime so spread the word.

It is this simple:-
1. Pay a £5 registration fee at or simply text PACT98 £5 to 70070.
2. Tell me you have paid and I will let you have the Poppyfields Challenge login details.
3. Sign in to the site and log your challenge for January 2015.
4. Exercise everyday in 2015 and pay a £1 charity fine for each day you miss. Pay on the above link in a monthly lump sum or text PACT98 £1 to 70070.
5. At the end of January confirm whether you have passed or failed your challenge and set your February challenge. Repeat throughout the year.NB: You have to confirm you completed your challenge by the 2nd of the following month otherwise the logging system will assume you didn't complete your challenge so don't be late also you can add as many challenges in a month as you wish but you have to have completed them all to 'pass' the month.
6. You pay £5 if you fail your monthly challenge. Use the link to pay or text PACT98 £5 to 70070 but you enjoy an exemption for daily fines for the following month if you passed your challenge.
7. Join in at the FB group Poppyfields Annual Challenge Team and tell us what you're up to and how your challenge is going. Spread the word on Twitter with #PACT2015

All donations go straight to Birmingham Children's Hospital via Justgiving. Justgiving take a nominal percentage of online donations for providing their services however if you donate by text the full amount goes to the charity. This challenge is based on your circumstances and is judged by your honesty. It is your challenge! We will do our best to support, cajole, encourage and assist but if we are going wrong anywhere or something isn't working right or needs a tweak just let me know either on the FB group, on twitter @sidowski or on the blog

Good luck in your challenges and thank you sincerely for helping kids fight brain tumours, We know the difference you make!

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Walking on the Moon!

Many of you will know that this years Poppyfield's Challenge began with the idea of a few of us exercising everyday, paying a charity fine when we didn't exercise and logging our miles to see if we could clock up enough miles to go around the world. We smashed that by mid February so we turned our attention to the moon. The moon varies in distance from the earth. At its closest it is 217,000 miles away. We landed on the moon on Tuesday afternoon with 15 days to spare. We also topped £3000 raised for Birmingham Children's Hospital and their research and treatment into Child Brain Tumours.

I am truly in awe of the people that came together to make this possible. They began as strangers and became an inspirational bunch of Poppyfielder's and friends. They are from all walks of life, a complete range of athletic ability and from all over the UK and the World. Miles being clocked as far afield as Europe, Dubai, Australia and USA!

A particular thank you goes out to Mark Dodgson as without his tech know how in setting up the mileometer and logging system we would probably have crashed and burned by the end of January!

So, a big pat on the back to Marie Neve, Pat Hipkiss, Dunsrunner, Tracy Mott, Lisa Guilder, Anthony Clarke, Christina Sandberg, John Thompson, John Young, Drew Clark, Christine Sims, Neil Hipkiss, Poppy the Dog, Jarvey Selfe, Toni McMillan, Nadine Prouse, Jamie Ross, Di Latham, Sarah Manning, Bunny Two, Brian Drought, Iron Pugsley, Fairy Fluffkins, Gillian Hirst, Mark Hirst, Andy Pye, Michelle Blackmore, Darren Gibbons, Liz Roberts, Ben Wild, Horse Nellany, Ian Dickens, Lena Conlin, Billy Conlin, Michael Evans, Adam Cain, Zoe McBeth, Jemma Phillips, Kirsten Bailey, Stephen Chapman, Colin Thomson, Mike Wells, Helen Gibbs, Michy D, Steve Knight, Stuart Lawrence, Lydia Barrow, Andy Birks, Kelly Williamson, Sarah Timbers, Trixie the Dog, Pat John, Laura Steward, Hollie Cradduck, Adam Hookway, Poppy, Kelly Denton, Sue McCarthy, Martin Collins, Graham Prouse, Jay McNeil, Paul Hodgkinson, Claire Webb, Mellie MelC, Anna Waugh, Pete Buckley, Fiona Collins, Liz Williams, Melanie McVean, Neil Wilkinson, Dave Harrison, Chris Jones, Fathead, Jane Taylor, Richard White, Georgina Dann, Keith Charlton, Chris Weddell, Vicky Weddell, Maisy Weddell, Lee Kennedy, Brian Guilder, Lily the Dog, Lisa Kelly, Simon Hassett, Alex Holloway, Nick Dann, Chris McBeth, Sharon Duggan, Tony Jeffreys, Jim Page, Chris Cash, Sarah Atkins, Sean Slowley, Tracy Elsdon, George Weddell, Sarah Booker, Darren Brady, James Farren, Kelly Ince, Lucy Tonnero, Steven Ketteridge, Tracy Roughley, Joanne Betteridge, Dawn Sanza, Julian Rawlings, S Woodfield, Giacomo Squintani, Valerie Bloomfield, Frank Biederman, Maxine Johnston, Scott Johnston, Ashley Stretch, Stuart Johnson, Gavin Restall, Stuart Hatton, Sally Hatton, Din Whitehead, Ken Holder, Mark Chapman, Pip the Dog, Mark Smith, Michael Barnett, Ian Day, Martin Cunningham, Dave Wunderle, Claire Loughton, Julie Twydell, Veronica Leith, Sam Hirst, Emily Hirst, Anne Devenney, Richard Miller, Chantel Spence, Anthony Pounder, Ines Carr, David Leighton, Carley O'Brien, Martin Murtagh, Mags Doyle, Leigh Holloway and Mathew Peleszok!

Thank you all sincerely for the push, determination, inspiration, the fundraising, the effort, the awareness and for getting us to the Moon!

A few of us are running/walking/cycling along the canal from Birmingham Children's Hospital to Tamworth on Sunday 28th at about 10am if you want to join us? It is about 13/14 miles. We will be passing the The Boat Inn in Minworth with 6 miles to go (11am ish) and The Dog & Doublet in Bodymoor Heath with 3 miles to go (11.30am ish) if you fancy a shorter distance. We should be back to Fazeley by 12 - 1pm ish and you will find us in the Three Tuns if you fancy sharing a celebratory Moon Pint from about 1pm! (Details may change so keep an eye out).

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Outlaw BMX Bandit

The idea was born during last years Outlaw. It was very hot, the Morphsuit was annoying the hell out of me and I was about 70 miles in on the 112 mile bike section. Many thoughts pass through my limited brain capacity and one was how to ramp this up from the Morphsuit to help raise sponsorship again by doing the Outlaw Iron distance triathlon.
I certainly didn't want to do it in a Morphsuit again (at this point I was boiling in a bag!) but its hard to ask for sponsorship if I am making it too easy ie. doing it in standard kit. So with the 112 mile bike section being the longest part of the day in miles and time (for me) I decided it would be a fair challenge to do it on a BMX!

Now, I have been backwards and forwards on the specifics. The initial idea was a 24" Cruiser BMX with drop handlebars, stick some gears on, thin race wheels and tyres......effectively turn a BMX into a road bike with a BMX frame. Unfortunately whilst this would make my life much easier it detracts greatly from the challenge. It's a challenge because, as a 16 hour 45 min two time Outlaw on a road bike, to finish within the 17 hr cut off on a standard, fixed gear BMX will be very very difficult. Some have said that it is not possible. Also I couldn't blag a free 24" BMX.

Instead I was given this by good friends Max and Scott Johnston. A standard 20" BMX.
This will be my race bike. I have made a few tweaks to it. I have put my road bike clip in pedals on and Chris Hancock has extended the seat post. Griff Woolley has trimmed 23.5cm off the handlebars so they comply with BTF rules for next year and Jason Clarke very kindly sent me a 32t front cog and chain to replace the 29t that was on the bike. Daz Brady fitted it for me.

I will keep the rest of it as standard. If a challenge is worth doing its worth doing properly isn't it? Of course it is. So I have had the bike approved by the BTF and Outlaw thanks to Stefan Pearce and the OutlawBMX challenge is on!
This side of Christmas I am just keeping my eye in on the bike. Rides so far are mainly during my lunch hour up to 10 miles and I have sneaked over 16 mph ave. My longest ride so far was with GB representative at next years World Championships Marvin O'Brien which was 15 miles at 14.9 mph ave. I will need to hit at least 13.16 mph ave at Outlaw over 112 miles to have a chance of making the cut off. I am going to aim for 15 mph ave to allow some breathing space should things go pear shaped at any stage!

Some people have questioned if this is possible. Many have said that it isn't! Its all about context I guess. The smiliest cyclist I have seen at Outlaw is Lucy Gossage and she is rapid! For her, or any other top triathlete, they could do it on a BMX no problem. For me it is a test. I have needed the full 17 hrs to complete Outlaw on my two previous attempts. The first time was an 8.5hr bike (13.17mph ave) bringing me in at 4.28pm and just two minutes before cut off. The second time, in the Morphsuit, was 7hrs 38mins I think. My aim is to cycle Outlaw on a BMX better and faster than I managed on the two previous occasions on my 18 geared road bike!

Of course its not just about the bike. My swim needs to improve from 1hr 35mins to 1hr 20mins and Big Dave Ackers and Neil O'Brien have both offered to help coach me with my swim. If I can achieve this improvement and spend 10 minutes in T1 rather than 22 minutes it will give me a great platform to hit the bike from!

My running is alright at the moment but it has died at previous Outlaws. Team Bear (@TeamBearHQ on twitter) have already stepped in and funded my trainers. My previous ones had become slicks and if I need to get anything right for the run its the trainers. This is a great boost to my run training and a great kick start to get to a point where I can run and run well off of 112 miles on the BMX. I would recommend you look up Team Bear. We're new, slightly different, inclusive and down to earth! Our motto is Suffer but NEVER Surrender! I envisage a great deal of suffering along the way!

Many have questioned why? It's purely to raise money for Birmingham Children's Hospital and their research and treatment of child brain tumours. My niece Poppy was diagnosed at 14 months old. The fact she started secondary school this year is testament to the work and skill of the staff at BCH. Read her story here

I don't want your money yet. I just want your support, encouragement, abuse and ridicule along the way. I want to get as many people involved and aware as possible. This is a massive team effort, effectively I just brave the whirlpool, spin the pedals and trot out a few miles. Its the team around me that will make the difference. Best place to follow my progress is here

In other news many of you have been donating your exercise miles to the Poppyfields Equator Challenge this year. The aim was to exercise everyday and between us do enough miles to go around the world. We blitzed that in a couple of months so we set off to reach the moon. 217,000 miles! We are very very close now and we will finish it off with a 15 mile run/walk/cycle from Birmingham Children's Hospital to Tamworth canal jaunt on either 21st or 28th December. If you want to join us let me know.

Finally, plans are in motion for next years Poppyfields Exercise challenge. Details will be announced on here in the next couple of weeks.

Thank you for all your help. Always.


Thursday, 25 September 2014

Equinox Solo Morph

When taking a step into the unknown (eg anything over 26.2 miles in my case) you can either prepare diligently or morph it! Equinox is a 24hr run at Belvoir Castle on a 10km course from midday to midday. I decided to Morph it!

Thank you to everyone that made it possible from those that sponsored me or wished me good luck, that gave me advice, kit, flapjacks, that helped me train or supported me to those on the day who put the event on, marshaled, supported or competed. Special mention to this lot who were actually in the arena! I was like a Morph baton in a relay being passed from one runner to another to see me through the next part of a lap. Thank you.

Biggest thank you goes to Mich for her patience, support, advice, determination, strength, inspiration, selflessness, unwavering belief and indestructible love. There were at least two occasions at Equinox where I would have given up had it not been for her! She kept me going and brought me in on my final lap when I was emotionally and mentally broken. She did this despite having done 5 laps herself. 3 recorded and two without a chip to support others doing a lap. She did this only 4 weeks on from her last Hemiplegic Migraine where she again lost the use of the left side of her body. She couldn't walk properly or raise her arm above her shoulder or pick things up or remember things or speak properly. I may have mentioned this to a few (all) of you if I got the chance but my spirits were lifted massively when telling everyone about her! She is my strength, my belief and she gives a bloody good mid race pep talk!

I like to blog about these events for a few reasons. Firstly, I think I am ace and funny so its nice to read them back and be reminded that I am neither! Secondly, to give you all a flavor of the event and to persuade you to sponsor me more money. Thirdly, to acknowledge the human spirit that shines through at these events but is often lacking in the day to day!

It could easily read like all my others ie lost for words, amazing event, wonderful people, everything hurts, success/failure, humble, sponsor me, thank you. It probably will but I am gonna try and condense it to the absolute essence of the experience. Anyone looking for an insight into the right nutrition or tips as to how to tackle a 24hr run might not gain too much info here I'm afraid.

Lap 1 was a good run fully morphed.
Lap 2 good until toward the end when the already niggly calf gave up. Calf guards saved the day as I could still run as long as I didn't mind the pain. Ran with two walk breaks to eat on the two hills. Fully morphed with hood off to eat.
Lap 3 calf painful but manageable and ran it with two walk breaks. Full morph with food breaks.
Lap 4 probably the same as 3 as I cant really remember.
Lap 5 finished about 7.30 as darkness fell. Fully morphed with food breaks. Every step from the middle of this lap was a new distance PB!
Lap 6 Tried to run in the dark with Morphsuit hood on but simply couldn't see. Had to unzip hood for night laps. Lap 6 was a wet one.50/50 run/walk
Lap 7 As 6 but the rain stopped but the cold had set in. Finished this lap at midnight.
Lap 8 A painful and difficult shuffle walk as body parts began to give in!
Lap 9 A bigger dose of Lap 8. This finished about 7.30am and Mich had dragged me round. Supremely difficult mentally and physically.
Lap10 Broke me emotionally and mentally. I walked very gingerly and wobbling an awful lot. Back to full Morph as it was now light but it wasn't a nice place to be. Mich met me with 3km to go and walked me in. 3km I couldn't have done without her because I was now broken.
Thats it, 24hrs, no sleep, 10 laps, 100km or 62 miles. Ultramorph in the loosest sense! The esssence however is captured by the spirit of the people involved.

Mark Dodgson won it last year with 20 laps. He should have been focused on his race because he does race! Instead he allowed me to keep my kit and food at his solo tent with his support team - his lovely wife Gung. At the end of each lap I was offered drinks, food, gels, salt tablets, painkillers basically anything i could need. A seat, a blanket, a lie down. Anything. On the occasions Mark and I finished a lap around a similar time he would check on me, check I was fueling, not making mistakes and give me advise before he whizzed off again. His pit stops were 10 mins whereas mine became 30 or more quite quickly. I was looked after brilliantly and they gave me every chance to go as far as I possibly could. The last pit stop we met at he had withdrawn after 13 laps. He was wrapped in a quilt nursing a broken ankle. He made sure I was OK as I set off to do what turned out to be my final lap. He was still there when i finished it some two and a half hours later. Gung and Mark have my utmost respect and sincere thanks.

The most amazing of laps was lap 5 and produced a truly humbling experience when I met Marathon Man UK aka Rob. At 5km I approached the water station and there was a kilted chap sitting down chatting to the marshalls. He was talking about raising money for various charities. This got my attention and I started chatting to him. What followed blew me away. Not in a 'what a great bloke' kinda way but a 'my god that was a life checking, utterly humbling experience' kinda way. We got chatting as I raise a bit of money for Birmingham Children's hospital and Children with Cancer UK. He offered to walk the tricky grass down and up section with me as light was beginning to fade and I had been a bit slower than I thought I would be on the lap so was without a torch yet. I followed his bright green socks for focus and he steered me round each dip and talked me through the terrain as we talked about his amazing running achievements and his outstanding charity work. 5km became 4km and we started to run. All the time he stayed at my pace, checked on me, talked me round the hazards as vision became more and more limited. By 2km we were running well but I now couldn't see his socks. My vision down to zero. Rob then took off his t shirt held one end and passed the other to me. He then guided me in, still running, to the lap start/finish line. I was truly blown away during that 5km listening to Rob, learning about his journey and by this fantastic random act of kindness! He could have run on or just suggested I unzip the hood of the morphsuit so I could see as well as he could. I wish there was a pic but regardless that 5km has made a huge impact. Floored me in an entirely positive way. I wish him all the very very best with his fundraising, running and his future. I would also recommend you look him up!

Rob was only doing 5 laps to bag a marathon before he got the train back to London and then out to Fareham for an early start at the Pilgrim Marathon Sunday morning however his running is of the quality that he would be in the mix to win this event if he was there for the full event. There were probably 10/15 of the 80 solo entries who had a chance of the win. All of them supported other runners with comments or pats on the back, all of them were engaging and happy to talk and they all supported each other despite being in competition. Sharing fuel, salt tabs, medical supplies, kit etc. Pick me out another sport like that? I can think of only a handful!

The support for this event is great because its mainly the relay runners waiting to go out or everyone's support crews. Some take it to a new level though! I was lucky to have Mich finding me at some point at least once each lap to give me a hug and an encouraging word. The only time we missed each other was a couple of times when she was on course doing laps. I had Ellie and George there cheering me on, hugging and hi fiving me and running bits with me. I also had Team Poppyfields members there cheering me on. Add to this the likes of Shabba Runners, Belvoir Tri club, Ripon Runners, Wannabe Wonder Women, Grantham Running Club, Pirates and all the other teams pitched around the field for the 10th km who every time I went past gave me some support. Either a 'keep going', 'great effort', 'pick your effin knees up!'. Sometimes I would hear people say things like 'oh shit just realised he is solo!' or 'he's been going all night!' This drives me on. Its like being given a new pair of legs (at least for a short while).

Two groups of kids that I didn't know were great. I had just run a lap with Rob Bateman who had to withdraw as the ruptured tendons in his foot from a fall the week before were just too painful. He had run 3 laps on it!!! I had stopped for a bacon sarnie from my pack and a banana. As I set off the first section is a 2km tarmac then grass section. It may have been lap 4 or 5. As I reached 1km I caught up with two kids walking the course. I asked if they were ok and if there parents knew how far they were out from the campsite and they said as long as they stick together they are allowed. I think one was 9 and the other 7. One was dressed as a bear! The bear pointed to the pirate symbol on my suit and told me his dad was a Pirate. Turned out to be Rob that I had just run a lap with.

I suggested to them that they head back to their tent now as it was getting on but they wanted to run with me. So they did, all the way back to the crossroads at 2.5km where they headed back to camp. They were ace asking me questions about the morphsuit, running, pirates, trainers, cars, ducks, castles, sheep, roads, fields etc etc etc. The time flew by and they were a brilliant distraction from the multiplying niggles! I hope they weren't to scarred by the experience.

The other group of kids were two Ninja like lads who each time I went through the tree lined tarmac section seemed to leap out of the trees screaming 'Sid Sid go Sid' and always got over to me for a Hi 5. I mentioned this to Alex Cooke later on and the kids were with him. They were phenominal in their was Alex. Alex was one of the 10/15 that could podium at Equinox however due to an entirely overly optimistic blistering first few laps he managed to fire his quads into the seventh level of hell! Fortunately for me this dropped him to my shuffle/walk pace. It meant that several times he would walk or run a section with me and he helped me through many a lap. A bloody nice bloke with a heart of gold. He finished with 17 laps despite the quad problems. I am sure he will be back to answer the 'what if' questions!

Many people passed the Morph Baton on to get me round. I didn't understand beforehand how being Solo was in fact a huge team effort. Some perhaps didn't realise the help they gave! Everyone helped but particularly helpful were Lozza who dishes out energy hugs like sweets, Tigger who bounces along on a run as the name suggests, Morphman (the orginal) who was relaying due to some injuries, Ade (I think - No 12) who was very generous with his advice, Wilko and his 'get your knees up' heckle from inside his sleeping bag (lazy git!) and Sarah & Vicky for Team Bear Tri and many many more. Some may not have even got a coherent response from me although I did try and acknowledge, thank and support everyone. I did offer some flapjack to a woman who dropped on the hill whilst feeling faint. She had her earphones in and clearly didn't want to talk. I stayed with her until she was up and on her way and then she disappeared on ahead.

Lots of niggles develop quickly. Calf went on lap two and I noticed the pain until probably lap 8. Kidneys were intensely painful through the night. Everything ached from lap 6 onwards. I developed a 5 lap blister on the ball of my right foor. My toes and feet, legs arse and elbows (wtf!?) hurt. By lap 9 my underscrote felt like it was being serrated with a hacksaw! But these are all manageable. I learned however that hypothermia cannot be easily ignored.

When I finished lap whatever at Midnight I was struggling with everything. Tiredness and pain was getting to me. I really hoped I would see Mich at the end of the lap. Unfortunately she couldn't be at the finish line but Ellie was instead. What a sight for sore eyes. I got a big hug of Ellie and she asked if I needed anything. She helped me back to the Team Poppfields tent and gave me her last slice of Pizza. Easily and by a mile the best thing I have ever eaten. She also found me some Coca Cola. My kidneys were really painful and I wanted to lie down. Ellie looked after me and I decided to go back to Marks tent to change kit to try and warm up.

I was beginning to dither in the wet Morphsuit following rain early on in the evening. I put two dry t-shirts on underneath the Morphsuit. I had a fleece over the top. I wrapped myself in a blanket and Gung made me the most amazing cup of tea. I warmed up and by 1.30am felt ok to crack on. As soon as I stood up without the blanket my body began shaking uncontrollably and my teeth started to chatter. As I went to go back on course I was stopped by Jim Page or Ironjedi. He was about to do the marshall night shift. He is an experienced endurance athlete and does these things properly. These things being things like the DOUBLE Brutal Ironman! Yea the clue is in the title! He said I needed a coat and dismissed my reassurance that I had a fleece on. I told him I would be fine when I started moving again and I didn't have a coat. He took his off and gave it to me. Suggested I have another cup of tea and warm up before I go out. Without a doubt, without his intervention and kindness I would have not got much further than 1km into that lap and my race would have been over. Instead I went out at 2am and managed 2 laps in the coat to see the sunrise. I cannot thank him enough for phenominal support and that coat.

The second of these laps followed more tea (this time from Chris Bennett) and another warm up. I was hoping to see Mich who I knew was pulling a double shift in the early hours to allow her teammates to have some sleep. She had none! (I know!! She is effin amazing!) By pure fluke and as I made the decision to go back out as I couldn't wait any longer, she came through the start finish line and we got to do a lap together. More accurately she dragged me round by the hand. Ive never enjoyed a lap of agonising physical pain as much as I did that one. By this time the pain was constant and each step was painful. At the end of this lap I added to the Morphsuit the TeamBearTri motto!

When I got back to Marks tent he was sat down and wrapped up. I wondered why I hadn't seen him whizz past me for a while and he explained that he had to withdraw as it looks like he has broken his ankle. Probably an injury from the Ring of Fire Ultra a couple of weeks before. He had completed 13 laps on a broken ankle before deciding to call it a day! Had I wanted to stop at 9 laps I clearly wasn't going to now. I changed under layers and ditched the fantastic coat, now that the sun was coming up, ate some food, chucked a tub of vas on my chaffed under carriage and set off on lap 10.

Lap 10 was beautifully miserable. Within the first km I realised I couldn't get round another lap. The best I could manage was the slowest of walks. The problem was partly the pain, partly the tiredness, partly the fact that I kept drifting to the left or the right, partly the momentary losses of balance but the main problem was that mentally and emotionally I was broken. Throughout the challenge I had a few moments where I may have suffered a leaky eye or two. Nothing major and sometimes a joyous kind of leak. Now however, kilometres 91 - 100, I had lost control. As people ran past and shouted encouragement I couldn't reply because I was a snivelling wreck inside the suit. The only give away being the emotional shoulder shuffle that you cant hide when getting upset. Any tears ran within the morphsuit and to add to the foul stale bodily stench in the suit I was now dealing with a build up of snot having nowhere to go other than down and over my mouth! Grim I know but I didn't want to take the hood down as people would see the state I was in.

As I reached the crossroads at 2.5km I did think about jacking it in and returning. The crossroads is the last place you could cut a lap short. The temptation was massive. I was in a lot of pain, I had achieved a personal best in distance, it wasn't a bad first effort at a 24 hr event and no one would think bad of me. The problem of course is that we do these things for two reasons....or at least I do. The first is to raise money for charity and the second is for redemption! Could I accept a pat on the back for jacking it in when I know I could have done better? Have I given it my all is the only real question. I looked ahead and knew the tents were only 500ft away. I looked to the right and contemplated the bridge, the hill, the grass, the grass hill. As a punishment for my own weakness of thought I turned right. The marshal shouted something nice. I cant remember what. The shoulders went and the tears and snot flowed. I took a step or two and wondered to the right onto the grass. I composed myself and went again. Stopping about 10 steps on to gather myself and then went again. Jarvy and Christine ran towards me and both Hi 5'd me. I don't think I spoke but in response to Christine's concern I may have raised a thumb! I told myself to just count one step at a time. To just fucking do it! It cant be that difficult and its only me, the mental me, holding me back.

It seemed to take an age to get to 5km and the relief of getting to the water station and loo was immense. The marshals helped me unzip to pee and I took the chance to wipe my face and clear myself of snot. To gather my senses and steel myself for the last 5km. I made the decision that this lap would be my last. As I started on the marshal shouted " I hope you didn't pee in your hood! " a specific morphsuit hazard we had discussed earlier. I raised a thumb and shouted a thank you for all the help. Gav whizzed by and I told him that this was my last lap and for him to tell Mich. He whizzed on and I ground out the grass hill back to the tarmac. Lo and behold my two support Ninja's appeared with Alex. They are a potty bunch of kids and went mad with support. A few Hi 5's later and after a brief 'are you doing another' discussion, mainly in jest, I thanked them and moved on. As I rounded the field bend to head back toward the tarmac I was actually doing one step forward and then two right or two left. This was becoming arduous. A figure was approaching. It was Mich. Gav may have suggested I was struggling a bit I think. She met me with 3km to go. I've never needed a hug so much. She knows what I am like, she knows I cant speak to her when I've lost it, I know she doesn't need me to say anything. She took my hand and walked me on. Jacko ran passed and gave me another shout of encouragement. He is also responsible for my favourite pic of the day! Sometimes you just need a helping hand.

From 2km on I was a bit more with it. We chatted as we walked. I had accepted that on this day and for this challenge I was done. Throughout the day I had 10 laps as my minimum wish. My biggest fear was that reaching 10 would see me mentally 'finish'. That proved to be the case as it beat me mentally and emotionally every step of that lap. All it means is that next time my target will be 15. Everyone around the field was ridiculously kind with their support and comments. Mich carried me along the grass and at the top bend she gave me a kiss, told me how proud she was and then nipped behind the fence and let me finish the last 50 metres under my own steam. I may even have put in a sprint (shuffle) finish! That was the finish for me as Johnny Nichol gave me my medal and I thanked him and the marshals at the finish. Johnny and Laura thank you for having me.

That was that. 31st out of 80 solos, 10 laps, 100km, 62 miles, 700 relayers, no sleep, marshals, fancy dress, tears, snot, pain, horrendous underscrote chaffing, banter, kindness, hugs, coke, bacon sarnies, flapjacks, water, coats, laughs, love, support, kindness, Poppyfielders, so much kindness, a 'we're not worthy', friends, charity, rain, sunshine, photos and Mich! Quite a 24 hours.

I do believe I and we can do anything we put our minds to. I saw in the people there that day a strength, a determination, a belief, a stubbornness that can achieve anything. Sometimes we just need a helping hand!

Text MORF72 £10 to 70070
Go to
For Tilly, Kitty, Poppy, Andy, Adam & Children with Cancer UK

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Inspiration in Determination

My bloggage has been a bit slack and for that and to anyone that actually reads this drivel, I apologise!

Since April things have been a bit up in the air. Mich has been tested here there and everywhere as they investigate her Hemiplegic Migraines. She has suffered a few episodes since the original in March! We just want them to get to the bottom of it and sort it out or at least prevent them. In the meantime she has kept up her running as best she can. She's comfortably back to 6 miles at 8:30 mins/mile pace now. Soon to step up the distance with London Marathon 2015 her main aim. Before that she has The Colour Run this weekend, a few 10k's and Equinox 24 in Sept as the Captain of Team Poppyfields. Her determination inspires me daily.

My dad has had an operation to remove a cancerous colon tumour after radiotherapy and chemotherapy. The surgeon was happy with the outcome and after some initial recovery issues he looks well on the way to making a full recovery with some associated life changes that such an op brings about. His determination to get on with things is a huge inspiration.

We raise a bit of cash for Birmingham Children's Hospital and their research and treatment of child brain tumours. Over the last few months a young girl called Tilly Sweet was told her tumour had returned and the prognosis looked bleak. However, her treatment at BCH has gone well and things are looking much more positive. Poppy continues to thrive as she looks forward to Secondary school. A possibility that seemed out of reach when she was diagnosed at only 14 months old. It goes without saying that such kids fighting these battles are a huge source of inspiration.

As for the fundraising....that's storming along. The Poppyfield's Equator Challenge has become a race to the moon after we blitzed the equator in the blink of an eye. We're 135,000 miles exercised towards reaching the Moon at 217,000 miles. Average required is 600 miles per day. We're currently at 601 average! We've raised nearly £2200 and we still have 4.5 months left! The daily effort and determination of everyone to do this challenge inspires me each day.

As for me? I am trying to make up for my failure to deliver on a promise to raise money for Children with Cancer UK by missing London Marathon through illness. Instead I am raising money for them by running 2014 miles in 2014 and Equinox. My training has been hit and miss resulting in my 2014 miles run in 2014 daily requirement having crept up from 5.5 miles per day to a rather impossible seeming 9.2 miles per day! I have Equinox 24hr run in 5 weeks and I am Morphing it solo! I am way out of my depth. Might just have to blag it!

I'll tackle both with as much determination as I can. If this inspires you to grab a pound or ten from your pocket just text MORF72 £10 to 70070. It goes straight to CWCUK. Or just message me a pledge of how much you would be prepared to sponsor me for each 10km lap I complete at Equinox within the 24 hours. I will be Morphed and I have never run further than 26.2 miles!

I have marshalled at IMUK where I bike marshalled the 2nd male athlete through the run. That was a truly awesome day to witness people going long from the other side! So many friends were doing it and it was a pleasure to cheer them on the run after I finished my marshalling duties. The stories, the battles and the determination behind glazed over and zoned out eyes was massively inspirational.

Its not just the long stuff that strikes a chord! Supporting at the Outlaw Half was phenomenal and then marshalling in the rain at The BRAT standard distance and sprint triathlons last weekend delivered the same inspirational fix!

I am hoping some of this inspiration works its magic for me at Equinox. It has helped to pursue the BMX Outlaw idea. Moda Cycles have yet to respond to my query regarding their BMX (for show only) that was at Outlaw.  The British Triathlon Federation are looking into sanctioning this for Outlaw 2015 and if they do my training focus will switch to BMX post Equinox. The majority opinion (about 90%) is that it cant be done. I like those odds!

Finally, there is an upcoming UK wide game of hide and seek due to take place with Sean Conway who is running John O'Groats to Lands End, unsupported. This will complete the final leg of his unique Length of Britain Triathlon having already done it on his bike and then earlier this year becoming the first person to ever swim it! Within the first 5 days he has sprained his ankle and tweaked his knee. Of course he is still going. He is determination (honestly have a look in the dictionary) and I am going to absorb as big a hit of inspiration a I can after he invited me to run a day with him....I just have to find him first.

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Not Meant To Be!

On a personal note I can only apologise to Children with Cancer UK for being unable to run the London Marathon on Sunday and to the many people who sponsored me on the basis I was running it in my morphsuit. I will focus the remainder of 2014 on fundraising for CWCUK and I will hopefully sort out a replacement marathon so that the sponsorship already raised is earned!

The last few weeks have been a nightmare what with Michelle suffering a Hemiplegic Migraine, hospital visits, being told she can still run and then being told she cant! It was last Tuesday when in with her GP I asked if she was OK to run? He said no! The main risk being that this early in Michelle's recovery there is a risk that dehydration could bring on another Hemiplegic episode and certainly do her more harm. To say she was devastated is an understatement. 6 months of effort, build up and anticipation seems to be for nothing! It is not, of course, because she had laid the foundations to rebuild and prepare for London 2015 but that doesn't initially help with the disappointment she faced. As it transpired we ended up back in A&E last Friday! This time she had chest problems for which she was given antibiotics and painkillers and told to rest for a couple of weeks. A pleuratic episode they said and a bronchial somethingorother! Even if she had not suffered the Hemiplegic Migraine the problems with her chest, which followed a period of lurgy, would have ruled her out just 36 hrs before the start!
Thankfully after all of the problems of the last 4 weeks, none of which are related to running, Michelle is finally on the mend. I think that after a couple of weeks rest which she should get during Easter school hols, she will be recovered and back running. Its been a scary time and I am relieved to see some light at the end of the tunnel. I just want her well again!
Fridays trip to hospital meant that on Saturday I wasn't keen to leave Michelle to get to the expo and collect my number for London. I was however confident the tablets would kick in for Michelle so I could still get down on Sunday morning, run and then drive back. A few calls to my men on the ground, Leeky and Ian, meant that they got me in touch with Colin at the expo who, after a few security questions were answered, was able to release my number to them. At this point the dream was still alive. I had extended the window of opportunity by a few more hours.
I should say that I was off work ill myself on the Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of last week. Headaches, shivers, shakes, sweats, muscle aches and a cough had wiped me out. I went into work Thursday and Friday and was still going to run albeit I was resigned to the fact I would have to be slow and cautious with the lurgy still lingering.
Unfortunately, during Saturday afternoon, I suffered diarrhoea! (I know, you couldn't actually make this up!). It meant that by 8pm I hadn't eaten at all and I felt weak and entirely unwell. I had thought I could run with lingering lurgy but the reality I had to face was that running London in a Morphsuit, in 17 degree heat, without 4 weeks of training, without having eaten, 7 lbs lighter than the day before and with an explosive gut was not possible!
Reluctantly I made the decision to withdraw. The reality was that regardless of all the bravado, stubbornness and stupidity it would have been bordering on the insane to have run. It would have almost certainly put others at risk if I took up a medics attention or an ambulance ride or a hospital bed for attempting to run when ill.
I told Leeky and Ian who had gone well out of their way to accommodate my ever changing plans and resigned myself to having to watch London on the TV!
I know it sounds silly but I was gutted to let down all the people I was looking forward to seeing on the day and sharing the London experience with. In a perfect world me and Michelle would have run together, met loads of people and had a great experience.
My place was a charity place so I cant defer and next year I will be supporting Michelle from the sidelines with the kids so that we are there for her. That means that at least for the foreseeable future and then entirely dependant on Ballot luck, I wont get to run London.
Michelle believes in fate! I don't although it was not lost on me that a chap my age died after finishing. My heart goes out to his family. Also a good friend of mine was blue lighted off the course at 24.5 miles after collapsing with kidney failure due to dehydration. At the time he was on for a 20 mins PB and 3:15!! He had recovered from the lurgy himself about 6 days before the event. After a night in Hospital Gaz is home and recovering and he should be fine in a week or so. He also accepts that it could have been a far worse outcome.
It wasn't fate that stopped me running - in the end it was common sense although as someone who has dabbled in endurance events common sense is not normally something I am blessed with. It was also touch and go as to whether common sense would win.
The pressure to run, especially when running for a charity, especially when its a charity place and not a ballot place is immense. You commit to them in return for the opportunity. To then not run means a place was taken that could have been run by someone else. The guilt associated with the decision makes it all the more difficult.
I will make it up to CWCUK this year. It will just take a little while longer for me to raise the funds I know I can.
So, for both of us, London Marathon 2014 was the marathon that wasn't meant to be. Health and family come first as without both we're good for nothing.

As a final thought I read some stats that apparently highlight people who cheat in the marathon. The main suggestion is a fence hop just after London Bridge meaning splits are produced like 2:07 first half and 50 mins second half! I truly hope this is not true but if it is and these people are apparently running on charity places too, I sincerely hope that Karma (something else I don't believe in) pops up and restores the natural order of things!

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Taper Schmaper!

On Thursday 20th of March Michelle had a bit of a headache. Nothing unusual and a couple of paracetamol sorted it out. When she woke on the Friday George said to her that when she smiled only half of her mouth was smiling at him. She has suffered a left sided numbness previously when suffering a severe migraine but had not had one for over a year and this time the headache was nothing like her previous migraines. Any numbness/weakness has previously subsided within a day!
During the day things didn't improve so we went to the Sir Robert Peel Hospital in Tamworth who referred us straight to Good Hope Hospital in Sutton Coldfield. She received excellent care there firstly in A&E from the nurses, stroke doctor and porters and then on the HASU ward (stroke ward) overnight.
She had a CT scan at midnight and to our relief the worst case scenario (a stroke) was ruled out and a diagnosis of a rare & complex Hemepligic Migraine was made. She was told she should regain full use of her arm, leg, hand and mouth with 4/5 days and there will be no long term effects. She was discharged with physiotherapy exercises to carry out.

She only asked one question of the Physiotherapist which was " I am doing the London Marathon in 3 weeks time so when can I start running again?" Not "can I" or "should I" but "I am"! That moment right there is the moment I knew she had the mental strength to do London!
Not that I was in agreement she would be at that stage. Obviously I hoped she would be able to as she has worked so hard in her training for this her first marathon. I wanted to make sure she was well enough to do it first. The Physiotherapist said that there was no reason why she couldn't start running in a few days but that Michelle should listen to her body!
If I fast forward 13 days to yesterday I can say that after a lot of walking to strengthen the leg, exercises on the arm, hand and fingers to regain her movement and a general straightening up of her face you would say to look at her that she was fine.

I know of course that her grip strength is still poor, I assume her left leg is still weak and she has some vision issues in her periphery on the left. The difference over that period however is amazing as huge improvements were made daily as she recovered. The first walk we did was very slow and very tiring and she needed my hand for support. 8 days on she made it into work for a few hours and 9 days on she made it to the Poppyfields Ball!

So yesterday she attempted her first run since the attack. I had in my head a 2 mile 10 or 11 mins/mile pace run around the estate so we can get home if it all went pear shaped. Michelle on the other hand simply smashed a 3 mile run up to and round the Castle Grounds at sub 9 mins/mile pace!

I have seen some amazing things. I have seen people push themselves beyond anything they thought they could do. I have seen kids fight through illnesses that would have many of us rocking in a corner and maintain a smile and energy that defies the odds. Yesterday though I was truly floored by her determination and heart! Her resilience and sheer stubbornness would make me a millionaire if I could bottle it! Of course in many ways I am rich beyond imagination but that is totally down to Michelle and our kids.
Many people will say that some things cant be done. Many will say some things shouldn't be done. Some people cant understand the heart, determination, resilience and sheer stubbornness that lies within us all because they perhaps haven't had to call on it themselves or they choose to ignore it.
Yesterday put to bed not only the question of would Michelle be doing London, she had said that at worst it would be a nice walk around London, but also whether or not she would be able to run it.
Our marathon training plan hadn't allowed for this 2 week sebatical so I think we will just call it an early taper, get a few runs in over the next 10 days and she will be found on the start line on the 13th ready to tackle her first marathon.
If you see a freaky white Morph with a big grin grabbing all the attention from the crowd, spare a thought and give a shout to the quiet, steady, unassuming runner next to him sporting her 'Michy' Poppyfields vest. She is the engine, the strength, the determination and heart that powers us both!
You already know she runs for Poppyfields and the money goes directly to help kids fight brain tumours at Birmingham Children's Hospital. If you think her effort is worthy then make a donation. Perhaps forego a pint or two this weekend or better still cut out the takeaways for a week and donate the money you save. Donate at or text 'HECK78 £10' to 70070 as many times as you like.
Thank you!

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Altruistic Wankeyness?

"In spite of anything that Kevin Spacey may have said, the greatest trick The Devil ever pulled was NOT his convincing people that he doesn't exist, it was turning cancer into a method for people to seek attention for themselves under the guise of altruism while fattening the wallets of corporations. People will step over the bodies of those who are suffering and dying to preserve for themselves the right to feel good about being a hero for "raising awareness". This is the most loathsome and unforgivable form of wankery in the history of mankind."

I saw this posted by someone on FB in response to a status questioning the value of no make up selfies (cant believe selfies is a word - I shake my head) particularly those without donation. It made me wonder am I a loathsome wankery form of mankind?

Of course I had to look up altruism ( the principle or practice of unselfish concern for or devotion to the welfare of others) & that led me to wonder if I fall under that guise.

I am now not sure about anything. I cringe at the use of the word 'hero' in relation to anybody pissing about in trainers, on a bike or in a pool like I do. Its not even as if I am any good at what I do! Now I worry am I just fattening the wallets of corporations? Should I be asking people to donate to a charity of my choice? Do I know where the money goes? What is the point?

I do know where the money goes. If you have given money to Birmingham Childrens Hospital via Poppyfields I know it has bought a bed for the high dependency unit. I know it has bought a colour image scanner which can lower the need for investigative brain surgery. I know it has directly funded researchers in Dr Peets department as they look into ways to treat child brain tumours. Of course it is a whole different argument as to whether charity should fund any of this while politicians piss BILLIONS of pounds up the wall as they try and make a name for themselves in history. Warmonger Blair, HS2 (all of them), Afghanistan, Expenses, general wasted money etc etc. Does the fact that charity provides funding rather than government or massively profitable organisations line the pockets of both?

If you have given to Children with Cancer UK the money is used in a very similar way. For example they are currently funding a massive drive in relation to Brain Tumour research.

Then you wonder does it work? I've never had cancer so I don't know (I don't think a bit of BCC on the face counts).  My mom died of cancer in 1987, first diagnosed with Breast Cancer and then after it appeared she had beaten that she suffered a Brain Tumour which took her life. Developments since then would give her a massively improved chance of survival nearly 30 years on. Would those advances have been made without charity?

Currently my Dad his battling two Primary cancers (quite rare - usually one kicks off and spreads elsewhere). A rectal tumour and Prostate cancer. He started chemo and radiotherapy this week. Once done the tumour will be removed and the prognosis is that he should make a full recovery. I wonder if that would have been the case 30 years ago? Has charity helped advance things that are now helping my Dad? I don't know but I think you have to trust that it has! He is very relaxed about it all and positive. There is an element of 'what will be will be' and a 'they will zap it and remove it' job done attitude! Is that heroic? It is dealing with the situation that has been forced upon him in the best way he knows how. My opinion? Its pretty heroic to me because its the manner in which such shit is tackled that defines heroism. Poppy, for example, is always smiling. She has had no choice over how her Brain Tumour has been dealt with but it is the manner in which she has faced it that is heroic in my eyes.

I don't really know what I am trying to say? Is it worth running London in a Morphsuit to 'raise awareness' and money for Children with Cancer UK? Is it worth cajoling 140 strangers into exercising everyday to raise money for Birmingham Childrens Hospital? Is it worth a bit of pain and discomfort to swim, ride and run for 16 hours 45 mins in the hope that a couple of grand is raised and put to good use?

Then, of course, there are all the other worthy charities both home and abroad. When you raise £50,000,000 plus on the back of a night of celebrity comedy or sport and celebrity self promotion is that more worthy? Less worthy? Is anybody truly altruistic? Does anybody truly practice unselfish concern for or devotion to the welfare of others? Whether they do or not does the money raised have any less value?

I think the point being made by the original post was that you need to cough up the cash as well as posting a pic. We are all aware (we choose whether or not to acknowledge it) but for the campaign to work the dough has to be donated. At least that is how I am taking it to at least lower my level of wankeryness!

I don't want the right to feel good about myself. That purely comes from within. After all, if you do something to gain the perception from others that you're doing a good thing then you are probably doing the deed for the wrong reasons anyway. The outcome will still be that the outside perception of good is only a cover and you won't feel good about yourself anyway.

Awareness raised? Funds raised? Good done? Support appreciated? I don't know the answers.

I'll Morph London again and I will feel good as I watch Michelle run her first marathon too. I will have a good feeling made up of pride. If we raise some funds that are put to good use and improve some lives then I will be pleased to have done so. I am not altruistic but if my selfish pursuit of adventure has a by product of help then perhaps I can become a better man?

I hope I am not stepping over the bodies of those who are suffering in my pursuit of attention but then maybe I am?

Have a watch of this and depending on whether you could make any sense of my blog or if you have reached a conclusion that encourages you to donate and if donating works and is right then text 'MORF72 £1' to 70070. Children with Cancer will benefit and hopefully spend it wisely.

Saturday, 1 February 2014

#PEC Pacific Ocean!

We are slap bang in the middle of the Pacific Ocean! For 31 days of effort I think that is a pretty damn excellent achievement. I still want people to join in. We need more miles! Lots more miles! If we can get enough people involved we could get to the moon after we have blitzed the Equator. We may even make it to the moon and back (434,000 miles).

My previous post tells you all about how to join in and the Facebook group here has all the info you need

As for me well I am running. Running a lot. I have more than doubled my running miles as I attempt to run 2014 miles in 2014 ( I managed 800 odd in 2013 ) for Children with Cancer UK. I have done 145 miles in January so I am very happy with where I am at the moment. I will be Morphing The London Marathon this year for CWC UK and if you are inclined to sponsor me for these efforts you can simply send a text of MORF72 £5 to 70070. That's all you need to do. You can also pop to and donate there.

The best bit about VLM this year is that my much better half, Michelle, is also running it. It will be her first marathon. She has really attacked her training and we recently knocked out a 16 miler at 10 mins/mile pace. She has had to rest for a couple of weeks while she recovers from a foot injury but I am sure this will only serve to intensify her determination to tackle VLM. I must admit it has been a massive help to me to be able to train with Michelle and in our busy Kids led lives its nice to spend some quality time together!

That's it from me for now. Just in case you haven't been irritated/bored enough already by my daily update posts on the Poppyfields Equator Challenge here is a summary of our journey in month one!