What’s the RAID Pyrénéen?

It’s this years big cycling thing is what it is.  And its just a few days away.

Here’s the challenge:

  • 720km of cycling
  • 18 cols (mountain peaks)
  • 11000 metres of elevation
  • Completed in 100 hours
I think this goes on the bike...

I think this goes on the bike…

On 1 September, myself and three mates will take on a cycling challenge bigger than anything any of us have done before.  Supported by two cycling mad retired friends who’ll be testing themselves on some of the cols, we’ll leave the Atlantic town of Hendaye to cross the Pyrenees to Cerbere on the Mediterranean Spanish border.

After overcoming things like bruised ribs after a mass pile up on the annual ride to Skegness, saddle sores after training in Portugal and self inflicted BMX injuries our little team is about as ready as it can be to set off on this epic journey.

The Carnet

The Carnet

Yesterday the “Carnet de Route” turned up from Cyclo Club Béarnaise, the French cycling club that administers the certification of the challenge, and to use the words of Dickie (one of my team mates) – this shit just got real!

The now frantic final preparations are almost complete (anyone got some spare brake blocks??) and we’re set to pack up and head off over the weekend so nerves are starting to creep in.  I think we all feel like we are winging it a bit because none of us have done anything like it before: How much food do we need to take? What contingency supplies do we need? How long will 100 miles in the mountains actually take?

I’ve got a million unanswered questions and only 4 days before I start to find out the answers.  If I have the energy and the WIFI I’ll update this blog as I go along.  If not, there will be an epic update in a week or so!

Stay tuned and enjoy the ride!

No BMX Bandit

Last Sunday we had my daughters birthday party at a local BMX track.

She’s been desperate to have her party there since we took the bikes up for a play a few times and it turned out to be one of the best birthday parties we’ve done.  The track is run by Huncote Hornets BMX club and their British Cycling qualified coach hosts the event.

Jan makes sure that the kids are safe and confident in what they’re doing whilst using the speakers and gates he’d normally utilise for competitions.  The kids jumped out of their skins when he first pressed “Go” and the pneumatic gate flew down with a crash in front of them, but it wasn’t long before they were racing around the cinder and tarmac track.

Birthday BMX Bandit

Birthday BMX Bandit

The bikes and helmets are all provided to the kids (if you want them) so my daughter and her cousin got all kitted up whilst others remained more confident on their own bikes for the session.  The little ones were allowed a go on their balance bikes before everyone grabbed a homemade picnic in the shelter of the cargo container that doubles as clubhouse and shed!

Taking the opportunity of a quiet time on the track, I grabbed a bike & helmet out of the shed with a few things running through my mind:

  1. The track record is 14 seconds
  2. The kids had been going round in 35 seconds (I had to beat that right?)
  3. Jan’s words of warning “the bikes are quite twitchy”
  4. An image of myself flying over the jumps, throwing some shapes and whizzing around the track

As the barrier went down, me and my mate Dan flew down the ramp.  All of a sudden my cadence was faster than I had expected and I was at the bottom of the first M-shaped kicker. In that instant I realised I didn’t know how to jump a BMX (I might have had a chance 25 years ago!!) and the indecision about what to do resulted in something spectacular! It’s been described as an airborne cartwheel on a bike.  And it hurt!

Wounded

Wounded

I ended up scraping my hands, knees and elbows whilst giving my shoulder, back and knee a battering in the heavy landing.  My daughter was first on the scene and handed me my bike and in true hero form, I grabbed it and finished my lap, then steadily started another two before taking stock of the bloody injuries!

So, as always, last Saturday was a school day.  Here’s what I learnt:

  • BMX racing is great fun – all the kids loved it and some have even begun the search for bikes and helmets!
  • 25 years is a long time off a BMX and they’re not like road or mountain bikes!
  • Safety advice is useful: all the kids were instructed to wear helmets & gloves and to keep their arms & legs covered (I ignored this)
  • As you get older, injuries develop slower – it was 48hrs before my knee swelled up and 72hrs before the real pain started in my back!
  • Huncote Hornets have got something exciting going on so we’re off to the club night to see how we get on…
Huncote Hornets

Huncote Hornets

Not a Race Report: London to Brighton, Fathers Day 2014

“I want to do a challenge this year”

“OK, sweetheart.  What do you fancy?”

“Not sure yet”

<2 days later>

“I’ve found it” (sobbing)

“Found what?”

“The Challenge” (sob)

“Ok… err, are you OK?”

“It’s London to Brighton, for the British Heart Foundation. I want to do it for you in memory of your Dad. On Fathers Day”

<Sob>

<Sob>

So that’s how it started over Christmas.  Since then, Mrs G has got a bike and the necessary kit. She’s trained hard every week since she anxiously signed up to this years ride.  She’s been soaked out in the pouring rain and been sunburnt by early morning rays.  And today she did it. And she raised hundreds of pounds. And she’s great!

But Clare can tell the story about what is was like for her.  I’ll write about what it was like for me.

My special wife has honoured the memory of my Dad in a very special way today.  Not only has she dedicated herself to an extremely stretching physical challenge.  She’s completed that challenge in a way that would do him proud.  Working hard.  Never giving up. Doing it with a smile on her face. But it’s about more than that.

As a family, we live a long way apart.  We’re 180 miles from my Mum and 130 miles away from my sister and we don’t see enough of each other.

But today my Mum enjoyed spending time looking after my kids.  My sisters house was close enough for me to drop around unexpectedly. I spent an hour driving with my niece and nephew, chatting and laughing the whole way. We all spent a morning together enjoying each others relaxed and easy company in a way that was entirely natural.  But that all happens far too seldom.

Today my wife was the focal point and she wanted to do something to celebrate our memory of my Dad.  We are all incredibly proud of her.  But rather than viewing today as an exercise in remembering my Dad I see it differently.

Today was a day when we lived life the way my Dad would be proud of – and Clare made that happen.  So this Fathers Day I’m not looking back at what I lost 20 years ago when my Dad passed away.  I’m looking forward.  I need to do more of what  he and Clare conspired to help me gain today. Maybe I need to behave a bit more like he would and work harder at pulling our family as close together as possible.  We should do more of this casual family stuff, it’s good.

Thanks Mrs G

Mr & Mrs G

Mr & Mrs G

The blog of a bike maintenance failure

My new bike has Easton RT90 wheels on and a pair of huge 28mm tyres which I’m finding comfy but sluggish so, when I received my new Conti GP4000 tyres through the post a few days ago, I was eager to put them on my bike.

New Conti Rubber

New Conti Rubber

Setting off in to my cluttered garage I got ready to start work and dug out my handy little tyre levers after popping open a bottle of beer. I swiftly (but carefully) took the wheels off and sat down on an old dining chair to set to work.

And then I ran in to a problem.

The tyres wouldn’t come off. I couldn’t get any purchase on them to get the hooky part of the lever under the tyre. After about 20 frustrating minutes I decided You Tube was the answer having concluded that the tyres must be tubeless and stuck on.

Clearly I am one of the few people to have ever had trouble getting tubeless tyres off a road bike (are they stuck on??) as not even You Tube – the worlds second biggest search engine – had the answer.

Determinedly returning to my task I grabbed another cold beer and went back in to my humid garage. There was still not shifting them. The best I could do was get two tyre levers engaged at different ends of the wheel but couldn’t get the tyre off. In frustrated defeat I retired for the night, prowling the depths of You Tube to find a solution and ruing the loss of two tyre levers that has expired for the cause.

The Offending Articles

The Offending Articles

After cursing the invention of tubeless tyres whilst reading through countless accolades, I decided to take the offending items to my trusty local bike shop.

wp450948d9_0f

Within 30 seconds the guy at the shop had frowned, mumbled something, fiddled with a tyre lever and released the first tyre from the wheel. It turns out that they’re just normal clinchers with tubes in so no glue, no new techniques needed, just good old technique and common sense …. both of which I am lacking in abundance. Then it was my turn to mumble something, buy a new set of tyre levers (to justify the trip) and scuttle out in embarrassment.

My New Tyre Levers

My New Tyre Levers

After kicking and cursing myself, but before closing the boot of the car, I had taken the tyre off the other wheel and drove back wondering what kind of meltdown I must have been having on Tuesday evening to get in such a pickle.

Just another one to add to the list of practical failures…..

A Hole

I’ve just realised that it was about a month between blog posts.  That’s a long time and let me tell you why.

The Post-Marathon Hole

Don’t get me wrong.  I’ve loved life since the marathon (other than the ongoing will-it, won’t-it concern over one precarious looking toe nail).  No, I’ve had a great time and felt like there was almost a new found freedom.

But there was also a hole.  A gap left by something that had been a huge part of my live, both emotionally and physically, for six months.

I’ve not felt miserable but felt that something had gone.  Like something was missing.

And that is nuts considering that I’ve had brilliant evenings and weekends with my family.  Enjoying their company and (sometimes) them enjoying mine too.

I’ve had little enthusiasm for training up until a couple of weeks ago.  The concept of crawling out of bed at 5.30 to go for a run is so far removed from my mind that it’s like I never did it before the marathon.

Maybe it’s a bit of healing.  Over the weeks since the marathon I have had unexplained knee pains (not starting until 5 days after the race) and pains in my shoulder (come and gone in the space of a week) and I’ve taken these as signs of my body still healing from that amazing effort it produced in April.

It’s almost like grieving too.  You know that feeling when you’re not sad all the time but just a little down from time to time when you least expect it?  When sitting daydreaming is a better option that getting up and doing something?  It’s not like me to behave like that and I think I’m through it, but it was a little strange.

Call it post-marathon blues.  Or to continue to use the Shed Seven theme and call it A Hole.  I’m out of it now.  I’ve got a new bike, rode to Skegness again at the weekend, the big cycling trip of the year is planned and I continue to be inspired by Mrs G’s efforts in training for her London to Brighton challenge.

It’ll be summer soon.  That should bring warmer bike rides, brighter evenings, some French cycling and hopefully Mont Ventoux before the RAID in September.  

If that little lot can’t get you out of a motivational hole, nothing can!

 

 

 

 

 

Beginning a new relationship

It’s difficult isn’t it?  As one relationship cools off another one inevitably begins.

Everyone has experienced those sombre feelings when what you once had becomes something less to talk about and more something to endure.  Then you start looking around and you wonder how and why other people have got the relationships that seem to be so much better than yours.

Well, it’s happened to me too.  For  a while now, I’ve lusted elsewhere.  Often, my head has been turned whilst out and about but this weekend it finally happened.  Our partnership that was once so strong was finally severed.  I didn’t intend it to happen but we were out with some friends and they were all talking about how happy they were with their (mostly new) partners and it galvanised me to act.

Temptation is everywhere and as soon as I’d decided to do something about my nagging dissatisfaction, things were moving fast.  Faster than I thought.

We met on Saturday night for the first time and I knew pretty much instantly that I had found what I was looking for.  My mind was doing overtime.  I don’t think I’d ever seen a beauty so stunning.

On Monday I made my move and unbelievably by Tuesday we were heading back to my place.  We didn’t do much that first night.  Just played a bit and got to know each other.  Exploring everything for the first time was so exciting that I couldn’t settle down at the end of the night and sat dreaming about what the next day would bring.

So yesterday on a warm, sunny evening I proudly introduced my new partner to some friends.  They seemed quietly impressed and kept checking in to see how we were getting on together.  I told them that everything seemed comfortable and was going smoothly, of course there were some differences to what I was used to but on the whole that first evening out with friends was exhilarating. It really feels like I am on to a good thing.

So I have no regrets from moving on so quickly and decisively.  We had some good times together and our trip to Paris will always be special to me, but times change.

Let’s face it, I’d had my old bike for 4 years and it didn’t owe me anything so splashing out on a lovely BMC Granfondo GF01 with full Ultegra gears and a frame lighter than an XL Bacon Double Cheeseburger seems perfectly reasonable to me!

So it’s au revoir  to the Boardman and bonjour ma cherie to the BMC.  Let the good times roll!!

Keep your eyes off.  She's mine!

Keep your eyes off. She’s mine!

My Brighton Marathon Weekend

After a torrid few days of self doubt, a possible psychosomatic illness and some dreadful nights sleep I ran the Brighton Marathon in 3hours and 35 minutes. And I’m delighted.

The Run Up

We travelled down to Eastbourne on Friday evening to make sure that we were well rested for Sunday,  It was a hell of a journey

Hit the beach before breakfast

Hit the beach before breakfast

through heavy Friday afternoon traffic along the M1 followed by road work ridden delays on the M25 before sitting in the 5 mile queue to the Dartford crossing.  It was gone 8pm by the time that we arrived and a 5 hour journey had not been part of the plan!

We chose to stay on a caravan in Pevensey Bay near Eastbourne along with our friends because it was much more economical than us all renting a house or hotel in Brighton.  It worked out well as we met up on Saturday morning just after I’d taken the girls to the beach and after sorting ourselves out we used the pool and sauna to set us up for the weekend.

Heading in to Brighton to collect my number and race pack was an opportunity to check out the location of the park and ride for the race as well as an excuse to meet up with some more mutual friends and enjoy a long, lazy lunch in the exquisite Regency restaurant.  It’s a place recommended to us years ago and now Mrs G and I make a bee-line to it whenever we’re in the city.  Handily, it was only a few hundred yards along the seafront from the marathon expo.  Unhandily, I’d assumed that the expo was at the start area of Preston Park which was a mile and a half out town.  Mr Tim, my friend who made the Brighton Marathon 10k his first ever road race, accompanied me on the long walk in and out of town before bypassing the expo in preference of meeting up with the group at the restaurant.

I love this restaurant

I love this restaurant

Sticking to the carb-loading plan, I missed out on some of the seafood delights that the others enjoyed (mussels, Lobster Thermidore, fish fingers!?) in favour of the seafood spaghetti.  Of course it was delicious and did the job I needed it today in advance of race day.

After lunch I finally made it to the expo to collect my race pack.  It was a little underwhelming (having only the London Marathon expo to compare it to)  so the allure of the seafront and friends soon drew me out without spending too much time looking around.  Brighton is a fantastic city and the next hour or so of mooching around the Lanes, in and out of shops, just reminded me why Mrs G and I love it so much.  But a reality check sent us back to the caravan to prepare for the big day.

A lemsip and pasta

A lemsip and pasta

Emotions were starting to run high.  Of course, I was raising money in memory of my friend Paul.   His family had joined us on the trip and Sarah popped over in the evening.  We were all in pieces for a little while before spending a lovely hour together,  It was exactly what I needed and refocussed me on my motivation for the challenge coming up.

Packing up the bags on a Saturday night was a bit of a pain in the arse but the plan was to leave early in the morning to hit the park and ride on schedule and have plenty of time to relax at the start.  So after a bit more pasta, a share of a whole chicken (courtesy of Mr Tim), some Lemsip, Manuka honey and a gargle with aspirin, it was time for bed.

I’d been feeling ill for a few days after developing a sore throat on Thursday,  I know I’ll sound soft when I write this, but I felt really fluey over Thursday night and throughout Friday.  Subsequently I got really pissed off!!  Feeling the same on Friday night and throughout Saturday morning had forced me in to action so it felt like the last throw of the dice to dose up before bed.

Race Day

The frantic packing continued after the best nights sleep I’d had for a few days.  My sore throat felt better and I finally felt energised and up for it!  We had a quick breakfast, chucked the kids and Mr Tim in the car and made the journey back to Brighton.  The queue of cars for the park and ride was horrendous and it took us nearly half an hour to get in to the Moulescoombe campus of the university that was being used for the runners.  Perhaps a little more organisation here would have gone down well as we were left very tight for time after the queueing and directed to an alternative car park anyway (for which there was no queue!)

Mr Tim and I jumped on the bus to the start while Mrs G and the girls headed in to town.  Another 15 minutes later we arrived at Preston Park.  Tim was running the 10k race so when he saw the queue for the toilet he legged it and I didn’t see him again until I finished my race.

Keeping it together for the camera

Keeping it together for the camera

I was still in functional mode.  Knowing the drill at these events keeps me calm so I patiently queued up for the toilet.  It was a ridiculous length of queue – probably 20 minutes – so time was tight after I’d “been”.  Making contact with my brother-in-law and sister on the way to drop off my bag made my chest pound.  I could feel the emotion rising but still had to function to get my kit on and drop in my bag.  People were already accumulated at the start area whilst I was still applying vaseline and deciding on whether or not to wear a t-shirt under my running vest!

Eventually I handed my bag in and turned to meet my family. And immediately I was in tears!

Matt, my brother-in-law has trained pretty much from scratch to do this marathon.  He’s lost over 2 stones and must have learnt a lot about himself and his limits during his journey.  I have been immensely proud of his commitment and was desperate to see him at the start to give him a hug and wish him luck.  Plus the added emotion from my motivation for running and the ever present inspiration of my Dad’s marathon endeavours, I was failing to fight back the tears and barely holding back from sobbing as I made my way to meet them.

I managed kisses and cuddles with my niece and nephews and certainly couldn’t speak after hugging and kissing my sister but just managed to say the word “proud” when I hugged Matt!!  After pulling it together for a couple of photos, we set off to our start points.  By now all of my pre-race actions had been completed which meant I completely relaxed.  Normally that’s a good thing, but on Sunday that meant my emotions totally spilled out. I literally sobbed my way to my start enclosure and could barely

Broken

Broken

see my laces when I realised I’d not tied them up! All the training, all the sponsorship, all the support and kindness from everyone since November, all the early mornings, all the hours away from the kids, all the frozen peas on my shins, all the built up intensity of wanting to do this thing the right way for my mate and my Dad.  They all spilled out of my eyes as I stood there alone surrounded by 10,000 other runners.

The Race

Everyone cheered as the gun fired to start the race.  Actually it could have been a gun, or a horn, or cannons – I don’t know as I was tying my laces at the back of my enclosure!  It took about 4 minutes to get across the line after a couple of stops and starts of running.  I missed the high-five with Paula Ratcliffe because I was starting my Runkeeper and forgetting to start my stopwatch but then after just a few yards we came to a grinding halt as we approached a hairpin turn just a hundred yards or so in to the race.  Soon after that we stopped again as the route narrowed on account of several parked cars on the side of the street.  This all frustrated me a little as it’s not like they didn’t expect 10,000 people to be running along there was it?  The result was a near 10 minute mile.

But weirdly (and I’m blaming the adrenaline) I was sweating heavily in my t-shirt and vest so was a little concerned at judging the weather badly.  I decided to reserve judgement on my choice of clothing until I hit the seafront where most of the miles were to be run.  Then I got focussed on my running.

During loads of my Sunday runs with Jim and Leanne we have started off with a really steady first mile or two so I felt confident that I knew what to do.  I didn’t panic about being 2 minutes behind my aspirational pace after a mile – I just weaved my way through the people in front of me and settled in to a tempo I was comfortable with.  The first few miles of any big race are slightly zig-zaggy and it’s a little annoying but a great way of making sure that you don’t set off too fast.

I was beginning to find a bit of space when I saw my Mum for the first time at about 3 miles.  It was a nice surprise to see her there and a good early boost as the route weaved around the city centre.  The course looped back on itself a few times which meant we got the welcome distraction of people running in the opposite direction to ourselves – people watching at speed.  I loved it and took the opportunity to keep and eye out for Matt and his mate Chrissy who had started a little behind me.

I always say that you shouldn’t try anything new on race day.  So why would a race choose “race day” to be the day when they

The water was this kind of affair

The water was this kind of affair

introduce water in bags to runners who haven’t used them before?  The water came in an oblong bag with a little tag at the top and a guy at the water station shouting squeeze it and suck it (??!!).  After a couple of squirts hit the back of my throat and made me choke I had a rethink and squeezed a little harder.  That resulted in the bag exploding and spraying all over me, my face, my clothes and the runners around me!!  As the race went on i just about worked out how to drink without choking but it was a challenge throughout the day.

When we looped back towards the seafront I saw Matt and Chrissy for the first time.  They were about a hundred yards away on the other side of the road and it took a couple of hearty yells before Matt looked around and we greeted each other with a few fist pumps.  I loved seeing him.  He seemed to be going well and I got a massive boost.

By now I was 5 miles in and shortly arrived at the seafront.  As we hit the road and headed out towards the marina I told myself that now was the time to concentrate on my running, keep a steady pace and bring the average pace back in to 8 minute miles.  The road widened a little, I took a few sips from the Gatorade station after 10k and felt fantastic as I continued to pass people on the way out of town.  At about 7 miles we saw the lead cars coming back in to town.  The elite men had covered about 11 miles by that point and they all glided past as if they were taking part in a different sport.  It was the last time I saw any of the elite runners other than in photographs!

After passing the marina and turning off the seafront the road narrowed and once again I found myself slowing and weaving through other runners until we had looped back on to the main road and headed back towards Brighton.  The lumps and bumps in the coast road didn’t make any difference to me and I felt great as I kept a steady pace going.  Watching the runners still heading out of town was good fun.  I shouted encouragement to as many of the other Mind runners as I could without getting out of puff and I got super excited to see Matt and Chrissy again.  Greeting him with an over-loud shout and another Andy Murray style fist pump, I felt like a kid seeing their best friend.  It gave me so much energy that I bounced back in to town.

The pier is an iconic landmark in Brighton and forms an important milestone for the marathon as it signifies that you’re close to

The Pier

The Pier

halfway around the course.  It’s also a great place for spectators and supporters to cheer people along.  The support on the side of the roads had been really good so far but coming back in to the city the supporters went to another level.  I loved the fact that people   were calling my name because I’d got it ironed on to my vest, but it was a real surprise to hear screams and cheers for Uncle Simon just after the pier! I looked across the road and on the promenade side of the barriers were Mum, Joe, my sister and the kids excitedly cheering me on.  Wow – another big boost and really unexpected so it felt like a bonus.  I waved and gave the thumbs up to show I was feeling good and bounced on up the road.

At 14 miles I’d expected to see Mrs G, Sarah and everyone so when they appeared just before the 14 mile marker I was a little surprised and under prepared.  The only thing I thought to do was to give a high five and I gave Mark’s hand such a slap that my own hand stung for a mile! That’s the sort of support that I love.  It reminds me that they’ve supported me for months just to get to the start line and so I feel a responsibility to repay them by doing a good run that they can be proud of.  So I put my game face on, moved in to the middle of the road to avoid distractions from other cheering supporters, got my head down and kept going at my steady pace.

I’d gradually bought my average pace down to about 8:12 after the first slow miles so I knew my tempo was still good.  There was no sign of the shin splint pain I’d had for so long during my training and I could only feel a little tightness in one calf and one quad.  So I told myself that I was feeling better than I had at this distance on any training run as we once again peeled off the seafront for our little detour around Hove.

I was starting to get hungry so was glad to see the High-5 gels being handed out after 15 miles.  I grabbed two and had one immediately, making a plan to have another in 3 miles time and, if possible, another after a further 3 miles.  We looped up and around before turning back the way we’d came.  I think it was at about 18 miles that we turned back towards the seafront and I heard the cries and cheers from my family once again.  They were on the opposite side of the road so in the glimpses we got of each other I tried to show how well I felt – excitedly giving the thumbs up and waving at them.  I knew the toughest miles were still to come but I was delighted to have covered 18 miles with an average of 8:06 per mile.  My plan (which I was making up on the road) involved maintaining the pace  and then kicking on with all I’d got after 22 miles, depending on how I felt.

The long road to-and-from Shoreham Power station (from ianvisits.co.uk)

The long road to-and-from Shoreham Power station (from ianvisits.co.uk)

After another couple of miles I was conscious that my average pace had stopped coming down and as I turned off towards the power station I knew I was at the business end of the race.  Coming up to 21 miles the smell of fish was over whelming, the road became desolate, the wind was in our faces and the support dried up.  It started to get tougher but I consoled myself with knowing that after one more turn we’d be heading back on the home straight.  I just hadn’t grasped the concept of how far that home straight would be!

It was at about 22 miles that I got the warning signs that I was starting to struggle.  I knew my pace was slowing but that was to be expected.  My quads now both ached and one calf was very tight. But the real signals came from the inability to ingest anything!  I’d taken my last gel between 21 & 22 and water had been in plentiful supply but each sip of water was beginning to make me feel sick.  Coming up to 23 miles and looking forward to getting back on to the seafront promenade I could feel vomit rising and had the unpleasant sensation of swallowing down a bit of sick rather than letting it all come up.

I realised that this stage of the race was about mind over matter so recalled a text I’d got from my other brother-in-law the day before.  He told me that Paul would be with me all the way round.  He was right but I’d chosen not to play that card to myself until I needed to.  At 23 miles I needed every piece of help I could get so I drew on all the reserves that my friends and family had built up for me over the last 6 months.

I thought of my memories of my friend and times we’d competed sportingly against each other on the golf course.  I drew strength from the sound of his laugh.  I knew that my run would result in a time that I’d be proud of as long as I kept going.  And I wanted to do a time to be proud of because it’s only then that I allow myself to accept the pride from other people.  I wanted to do a time that I knew my Dad would have been proud of.  I recalled messages from friends on my Just Giving pages and I recalled donations from

West Pier

West Pier

people I didn’t know.  I kept going because I wanted to see my kids and knew they were waiting somewhere towards the finish.  I wanted to keep going to show Mrs G that the hard work and sacrifice was worthwhile.

The old burnt remains of West Pier seemed miles away and didn’t appear to be getting any closer.  The beach huts on my left hand side seemed to be never ending.  These last miles were the hardest of the race.  I stopped drinking because I knew that the wheels would seriously come off the wagon if I was properly sick.  Telling myself that even if I slowed to 9 minute miles I’d still break 3:45 I kept plodding on.

I was driven to keep going because i wanted to get to my family to get that bit of support I needed.  They delivered it – as they do every time – and I got the boost I needed.  Stopping for kisses and cuddles was not an option because I knew that the moment I stopped there was no chance of running again so I waved and soaked up their love to help me keep going.

I see my family at 24 miles

I see my family at 24 miles

The physical and mental exhaustion was becoming overwhelming and I began to struggle to calculate my pace and likely finish time.  I realigned my targets to finishing under 4 hours and as close to 3:45 as possible, reassuring myself that it was still a good time and I’d done as well as I could.  A final boost came as I passed my sister and everyone again with a mile to go.  But then I knew I was on my own.

The support from the crowds was phenomenal but I felt overwhelmed and would have given anything for 10 seconds of quiet to get my malfunctioning head together.  The road continued in front of me but the piers slowly crept up and eventually I passed them to see a “400m to go” sign.  The noise was deafening and I responded by plodding on at the same steady pace.  When I could finally focus on the next sign I was encouraged that it said “200m to go”.  As I looked at the clock I was amazed to see that it had just clicked over 3hrs 39 minutes (it had been too loud to hear my Runkeeper announcements for a couple of miles) so I gave it everything to reach the finish line inside 3:40.

I did it.  When I remembered to turn Runkeeper off it said 3.36 and a few seconds but my chip time was 3:35. I am so proud!

Heading to the finish

Heading to the finish

Finish Line and Onwards

Staggering through the finish funnel.  Being propped up whilst bowing my head to collect a medal.  Walking past the water and bananas.  Shielding my eyes from all the foil blankets because they made me feel like I was going to pass out. Collecting a t-shirt and a bag.  Having my picture taken giving a thumbs up and a smile.  These things are all a vivid blur.

Being called over by a girl wielding my kit bag and wondering how I missed the big lorry I was looking for.  Getting changed underneath the arches of the road I had run along a few hours before.  My feet cramping as I took off my trainers and my back cramping when I put on a t-shirt.  I know I did this things but in a haze of exhaustion.

Being completely changed and nibbling a banana, sipping a little water, I began to get back to a normal state of consciousness. I followed my fellow finishers out of the funnel and started my way back towards the course to see my wife, my children and Sarah.  I was desperate to get back there to see Matt pass through but had lost any awareness of time.  How long had I been finished?  How long had Matt been running?  How long before I got up the road to see Clare?

And then the tears came.

I couldn’t control it.  I don’t cry much.  I mean, I’m not a cryer.  But I couldn’t stop as I hobbled through the crowds to see the people I love.  I saw the Mind tent and peeking in noticed there were some crisps on the table so went in to ask if it was OK to grab a pack.  As I was generously thanked for my efforts and offered hot & cold drinks, cakes, snacks, sandwiches and a massage I tried to thank the lady and the Mind team for their generosity but just broke down in tears saying I just want to see my wife!

Sobbing in to my packet of McCoys I nibbled a few crisps, sipped a bit of water and limped on towards the pier and the final mile of the course.

I think it must be something to do with the security of the environment at the start and finish that allows me to just let go of things.  By the time I entered the jostling of the spectators and battled against the tide of people trying to get to the family meeting area I was once again focussed on the next thing I needed to do … find my family.  I saw my sister and Mum making their way towards the finishing straight to support Matt in his final few steps and then continued to find Clare and the kids.

Matt, a proud finisher of the Brighton Marathon 2014

Matt, a proud finisher of the Brighton Marathon 2014

By the time we met up, my little supporting team had split a bit so it was Clare and the kids that gave me a hug amongst a million passing pedestrians so we decided to stay put to give Matt some extra support rather than joining up with my sister.  I know I loved having the two groups of family around the course and hoped he would get a double boost for getting two big cheers!

My sister had said that Matt was at 23.7 miles according to his Runkeeper app so we expected him to pass by shortly.  But after 45 minutes or so he hadn’t come past so I began to get worried.  I told the others to stay put whilst I walked up the road to make sure that he’d not got in any trouble in the final mile.  After 50 yards of staggering up the road I could see him coming down – still accompanied by Chrissy.  Adrenaline took over again, and rushing to the side I gave him a massive cheer and shouted some words at him.  He was clearly in a lot of pain but was still going and we knew he was going to finish his first marathon – a massive, life changing achievement that only a small fraction of the population will ever do.

Seeing him a few minutes after he finished I knew he was as overwhelmed as I had been.  Watching him being reunited with his kids  was a touching moment.  They’re proud of their Dad already, but one day they’ll be inspired by him.  Maybe that inspiration will result in them buying a pair of running shoes, getting fit and raising a massive amount of money for charity – making their own kids proud along the way.

Hugging him, knowing that we shared in a special achievement was an unforgettable moment for me and one that will always stay with me.

Matt raised over £1400 for The Maypole Project and I am stunned that I raised a humbling £1771 for Mind.  That sort of money is overwhelming and I hope both charities help people to enjoy longer, healthier and happier lives.