Marathon des Sables 2013

Marathon des Sables 2013

Sunday, 19 February 2017

I get by with a little help with my friends

When you are training for an endurance event you start by building a base level of training and this takes several months.  With my training having been twice a week recently I've felt like getting to base training would be a good start!  So I'm pleased to report that this week involved two runs, one turbo session, one walk (I'll come back to that) and my second bike ride this year.
The runs have gone to plan and it will be a while before I am able to get my heart rate down.  I'm now up to 10k and if I can get 2-3 runs in a week for the next couple of weeks then this should allow me to build my distance. It's strange to think that in 216 days time I will be running with a rucksack carrying over 12 kilos in weight and doing 6 consecutive days running; 49.6k, 43.4k, 84.7k, 41.9k, 41.9k,12.3k.  The course starts at 5,334ft and the total ascent in the race will be 18,041 ft with total descent of 14,688 ft.  It's hard to imagine the distances while I am running 10k at the moment but with proper planning by my coach Genevieve, I'll get there.
On Friday I completed a 7k walk. This is an important part of my training a I will be walking for large sections of the event due to terrain and heat. Walking causes different pressures on the foot from running and is usually where the blisters come from so there will be much more of this planned, although it's more likely to be hill walking.
Having ran 10k yesterday I headed out with Genevieve and Colin for a "social" bike ride.  I set the route but had failed to realise that this was a regular route, when I was cycling and fit.  It involved a lot of hills and I misjudged the distance (49km) so only have myself to blame for that.  At one point I was really struggling to make one of the many hills and my heart was racing and I was feeling sick.  My pals were already over the hill and I knew I was in trouble.  A quick gel gave me a boost but towards the end Genevieve was upfront with me trying to hold on and Colin was pushing me to help me stay on Genevieve's wheel.  My triceps were so tired I was struggling to hold onto the handlebars.  The rain had started and all I wanted to do was stop and call a taxi - that wasn't going to happen.  I'm putting this detail in so that you can see where I am starting from and it's not a place of fitness, but I am determined.  It will also be a reminder to me when I look back at some of the black moments you have to go through on the journey.  But as the title says, I got by with a little help from my friends which was much appreciated.  It's much harder on your own.
The healthier diet starts tonight and there will be a lot less socialising and partying!  I want to get back to the shape I was in pre-ironman but this will take a lot of hard work.  216 days and counting!

Sunday, 12 February 2017

Life gets in the way

Following my run a week ago I had the best of intentions to have 2 more runs during the week to help build up my base fitness.  Sadly this didn't materialise as "life got in the way".. you know what I mean.  The important things such as work, I had a week full of very early starts and 2 days in London.  Many demands on the domestic front but you've got to make sure that everything is kept on a even balance at home.
My first training session of the week was yesterday!  8.30am at the gym with my Athelite Tri club pal Graeme who made sure I don't put too much weight on the machine, highly unlikely, and that I keep the correct form. Then I headed out for a 10km run.  The forecast hadn't predicted snow but this accompanied me in the first half of the run.  It was very cold and it brought back memories of training for the Marathon des Sables in when it was -5 degrees and the expected temperature in the desert was 45 degrees.  An experienced runner said it didn't matter if it was hot or cold what we were doing was preparing for extremes.  I kept reminding myself of this message as I pulled the sleeves of my jacket down to cover my fingers which had lost all sensation.  It was a slower run that my last one which is fine, especially as my heart rate had dropped to a more acceptable level.  Apparently the way to get faster is to train slower and I'm happy with that concept!
In the afternoon I went for a sports massage to ease the muscles in my legs and to loosen off my back.  This is never a pleasant experience but I know it's necessary.  I'm sure Grant secretly enjoys seeing me suffer but without his expert hands I'd don't think I'd make it through the season.
I'd been invited out for a social ride this morning.  Slow pace was guaranteed and the target was for  30 kms followed by cake and coffee!  I be lucky if I'd been on my bike more that 4 times since Ironman - I'm a fair weather cyclist.  So when I heard the wind battering against the window I wasn't for going outside.  However the group were determined so I made the effort.  Climbing up the hill to the meeting point left me out of breath and I was dreading what coming especially when I found out the route - over one of the largest climbs in the area (after a few months it won't seem like a climb)! And of course the wind howled making the conditions tricky especially when it was a cross wind, and the snow which felt like hail smacked us in the face.  Fortunately I had dressed for the occasion and it protected me from the elements.  This is the start of my cycling and afterwards as I sipped my hot chocolate and ate my bakewell tart I began to feel human again.  That was only dampened by the very short downhill cycle home followed by washing my bike which left me frozen again before I  headed for the shower.  This weekend has been bitterly cold but the training must go on.

Sunday, 5 February 2017

It's a start

Hopefully this recently medically orientated blog is now going to get back to what is is there for.  To show how an ordinary guy with a goal to raise money for Maggie's Cancer Caring Centre, can take on extra ordinary challenges - hopefully this will inspire others to extend their comfort zone and go for it. When the doubters, and there have been a few, thought I'd "bitten off more than I could chew" that just spurred me on.  I've even been accused of "showing off" by some - believe me there are a lot easier ways to show off than busting a gut 6 days a week in all weather conditions.
The last three weeks have seen my laid up with a chest infection.  Climbing the stairs had my gasping for breath.  But on Friday I started to feel better so I headed off to the gym with my pals for a light workout.  I started with the bike then weights then boxing - yes boxing, that's where this crazy journey started in 2008.  It also reminded me how fit you have to be to do some simple bag work.  I finished off on the bike and my heart rate had got to 148 and I hadn't started coughing so that was a positive sign.
Today I was so excited to pull on my running shoes and head out into the countryside for a 7.5km run.   I plugged my music in and off I went.  I could immediately feel my legs protesting after the gym but it was my lungs I was concerned with.  My heart rate was too high but that was to be expected.  It was a cold but dry day and it made me realise how much I had taken for granted the privilege of being able to run.  It's such a good feeling to get cleaned up afterwards and fed so I can now relax and recover.  My chest is now letting me know that this was an effort with a niggly cough starting but I think it will settle down.  I'm taking tomorrow off training but will be back on Tuesday as I build up the base level of my fitness.  With 230 days to go I need to maximise the benefit from every training session to be ready to complete my goal in the Grand Canyon while raising money for Maggies.  I launched my just giving page last week and someone I met while running the Highland Fling in 2014 was the first to donate with £500 - incredible generosity which has got me off to a flying start as I am aiming to raise £10,000.  I will be paying my own costs so everything raised is going to Maggies.  To donate go to www.justgiving.com/Derek-Stewart6.
Today is just a start of my return to fitness, but it feels good so bring it on.

Sunday, 29 January 2017

Defying the odds

If 2016 proved anything it was expect the unexpected, don't believe the polls and that miracles do happen.  But in case you think I am going to stray into politics, forget it.  My highlight of 2016 was Leicester City winning the English Premiership.  At odds of 50,000 - 1 it was nothing short of a miracle and one that was good for the game and the romantics of the world.
Today I witnessed the Australian Tennis Open final between two "old timers" Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal. Roger had 17 grand slams to his name and Rafa 14.  Now as an ex professional tennis coach I know a thing or two about the game but when the tournament started this was not the predicted final.
The 5 set match was a nail biting classic played to a sell out crowd watched by no less than the legend Rod (Rocket) Laver, an 11 time grand slam holder, in the stadium named after him.  The point of my story is that 6 months ago both Federer and Nadal were injured and nobody was predicting this come back.  But they both believed they would make it back and worked so hard to get their bodies and minds into shape.  During the tournament the youngsters fell away, including Andy Murray, and in the final the level of skill, physical strength, mental toughness and mutual respect for each other was off the charts.  In one utterly stunning rally that Nadal played a cross court squash shot to beat Federer, and without hesitation Federer applauded Nadal and looked him in the eye to show his respect.
So I've taken a few lessons from this match.  These gladiators both wanted to win - it only came down to a few points in the end, but they remained respectful to each other and the game.  They gave everything they had on the day and despite being out of the game through injury they got themselves back in shape to compete at the highest level because they have a will to be the greatest ever tennis player in history - currently Federer is but had he lost the gap in grand slams would have reduced to 2 instead of 4.  They defied the odds, nobody predicted this final at the start of the tournament because they had been injured and they are getting on with a group of talented youngsters taking centre stage. But not today.  So I will use this match to inspire me to get over my chest infection and get back to full fitness .  I'll defy the odds and make 2017 an outstanding season.  And if miracles do come true then maybe Bruce Willis will appear and save the world!

Monday, 23 January 2017

It's never straight forward!


I started blogging while preparing for an Olympic Triathlon back in 2009.  Back then I thought that distance, due to the 1 mile open water swim, was almost impossible.  The purpose of the blog was to act as a journal for me so I could look back on the highs and lows of the journey.  I never imagined that 8 years later I'd still be writing it and loads of people read it every week!  It helps to know that others are following my journey, especially as there have been some amazing adventures along the way and probably the biggest challenge is happening in 245 days time - www.grand2grandultra.com.

But like life itself, it's never straight forward.  Having declared last week that my "partying" was over I have immediately come down with a stinking chest infection which is doing the round - maybe the alcohol had kept it away?  It's completely floored me with 3 days off work last week, a weekend in bed and I don't think I'll be heading into the office tomorrow.  So the intended training is completely out of the window.

I'm not letting it "get to me" as I know that training with a chest infection is a no no.  I'll have to start building my training up slowly and better to get to the start line not fully trained rather than injured or dead!  Multi-stage races are obviously very physical and the Canyon is no different as it will involve running at altitude, high temperatures, climbing and steep descents.  One badly placed foot in 170 miles could lead to the end of the adventure.  However it's what goes on between my ears that will determine my success and that is something I can practise while coughing up green balls of gunk!

To help my mind I have skimmed back through my blog to some stand out events such as been told in my early days by an arrogant swim coach that I "wasn't" trying" - I think he learned something that day!  Then there was my 108 Sun Salutations as I prepared for the Sahara Desert - that was probably the toughest training session ever.  Running The Great Glen, 79 miles over 2days in January 2013 taught me how to handle the "long stage" of the MdS 52 miles despite almost getting hypothermia at the end.  Going through the blog while I'm feeling like shit has actually been encouraging because life isn't straight forward.  I love the Chinese saying that success is falling down 7 times and getting up 8. Here's to getting back up.

Sunday, 15 January 2017

It's over!

It's over.  Don't try and persuade me otherwise.  I've had enough.  My last official "blow out" was on Friday 13th at my nieces wedding (which was amazing!) so yesterday was a recovery day on the couch and today a recovery run.  But all this socialising has to stop.  It can't go on or else I'll pile the weight on, become more sluggish, despondent, demotivated, increase my chances of serious illness and not be at my best for my family ot work.  So it's definitely over.
I have goals I want to achieve in my two 70.3 Ironman events which should get my fitness to a decent level without injury.  Once the second one is over then the running mileage will really step up as will the hill walking, hill climbing and mountain running.  So with such exciting goals lined up getting back to a healthy lifestyle should be easy.
I do have some holidays lined up but I will adapt the training while I am away.  Training when not working is such a privilege and you notice the difference, you're not so tired.
Today's run at Chatelherault was a solo effort but I did meet various friends on route.  My pace was reasonable taking account of my lack of regular running and it should just get better from here.  A lot of hard work ahead but it will be worth it.  I hope if you made a new year resolution that you are sticking to it?  If not get your running shoes on and get out there.  Life if for living not sitting on your arse!

Sunday, 8 January 2017

Chipping away

The first week back at work is always tough, even if it is only 3 days!  Early rises and long days but I've managed to have everything set up for the rest of the year.
Training wise I made it to the gym.  I'm not a gym bunny but I do need to increase the strength in my legs to cope with the training mileage.  I'll have to improve my upper body strength as part of the event includes climbing using ropes but I need to get over my shoulder injury first.  Add to that altitude and heat and it's going to be a tough 6 days in the Grand Canyon.  But I've just been handed a big advantage.  Last year I was asked to deliver a talk to some university students about the training for the Marathon Des Sables (MdS), the nutrition and the race itself.  They have asked me back again and as a reward they have offered me time in a heat and altitude chamber - BOOM!  So no need to head off to the alps when I can conduct some training 7 miles from my house!
On Saturday I went for my usual lap of Chatelherault but it wasn't good.  Short of breath and high heart rate isn't a good combination so I needed to slow down.  I felt terrible by the end of the run but I know I have to go through this period.  It's not easy and I'm looking forward to getting through this painful period - the canyon seems a long way away however it is only 258 days away.
Today I decided to go out running on my own and on the road rather than the trail.  I'm not sure if when running with others I am going out too fast which causes the problem, other than too much indulgence in the last 4 months!  I also decided not to look at my Garmin during the run.  Just run at a pace I was comfortable with but also increase the distance.  The route is a hilly one so 16.33 km (more than double Saturdays run) was a challenge, more mental than physical but I did it at a reasonable pace.  According to my Garmin I need to rest tomorrow so I will, but more regular runs are required to "chip away" at the mountain of training that lies ahead.  I suppose if this was easy then everyone would do it.  That is what will make it all worthwhile!