Whoops! I’ve got rather behind with my blogs…it’s all hotting up in South Pole HQ, with lots of exciting publicity, training and kit to think about. I hope you’ll forgive me!
My new training technique
Speaking of training, let me take you back a couple of weeks to Friday 17th October. I dragged myself out of bed ready to strap my backpack (picture below) on and cycle to the station for the 4.04am train, but thankfully my wife Sue offered to drive me… see the size of the backpack below and you’ll understand why!
Five hours later I hopped off the train at Carlisle and set off for the Hadrian’s Wall path. I walked in the glorious sunshine at the nippiest pace that I could sustain until darkness came, stopping only for a photo or two and for a spot of lunch at the worst pub I’ve ever come across!
a Hadrian's wall checkpoint
Looking into Scotland
Not my best recommendation for lunch!
Approximately 25 miles later, I was glad to reach the excellent Twice Brewed Inn B&B where I enjoyed some decent food and a sleep.
A great spot to stop
On Saturday morning, Conrad picked me up and we travelled to his house, not far from Hadrian’s Wall. We spent the whole weekend going over plans for Antarctica; clothing, skies, safety, first aid, and food. We also practiced putting up our tent (we are hoping to hone it down to 5 minutes flat) and Conrad showed me how to train by towing tyres behind me.
Our tent for the big journey
we got there in the end
for core strength and fitness
After an enlightening weekend, I resumed my walk of Hadrian’s wall on Monday morning. Starting back at the Twice Brewed, I walked the second half of the trail along to Newcastle, where I leaped on a train back home to Surrey and was home for 9pm. I was less lucky with the weather, but at least I missed hurricane Gonzalo!
Thank you Conrad for an excellent weekend in your beautiful home. I’m now feeling really positive about the challenge ahead. Just a last few bits of kit to buy before I’m 100% ready to go, and I’ll keep ploughing on to develop my fitness.
Running is so important for my South Pole training, because it ensures that I am aerobically fit enough to take on the challenge. I want to be so over-the-top fit that that’s just not an issue while I’m gone…the mental challenge is tougher to train for!
The second race that I signed up for is the Royal Parks half marathon, running around the beautiful Hyde Park and past London landmarks like Buckingham Palace and the London Eye.
The spectacular route
It was a beautiful day to run - cool, autumnal and clear – but as 16,000 runners and I stood at the start line with my knees knocking and my warm up wasted I was wishing for a little warmth! After 40 minutes’ wait, I had reached the start line so kicked my stiff legs into action and off we went.
Not long afterwards, I was surprised and delighted to see my brother and his wife waving and shouting at me…so I ran past pretending to be much less stiff than I really was! At mile 7 and again at mile 10 I was happy to come across another raucous gaggle of supporters, what a boost!
Running past Lancaster Gate
At the Great Langdale half, back in September, I finished in 2h 20mins which included a few serious hills, not to mention a mile or two of running around lost… So I was feeling hopeful that I could finish this relatively flat half marathon in under two hours. However, midway through the race I could tell that I wasn’t on track for that time but just couldn't will my legs to move any faster! I felt as though I could have carried on running at my pace for hour upon hour but not an iota faster!
In the end I finished in 2h, 10min and 11 seconds. Not my aim but still pretty respectable for 58 I think. I waded through the crowds, popped in to see the fantastically supportive people at the Bowel Cancer UK tent and then rejoined the family for a cuppa by the serpentine.
Why does everyone else look so serious?
A fantastic day, very well organised by the Royal Parks Foundation – particularly if everyone had brought eight supporters like me - that would bring the grand total to 128,000 people to manage! I can now hang up my running shoes for a while and focus on building strength…including dragging some tyres around some fields…
Thanks to the family for making the day so special, I was so touched that you made the supreme effort to watch me trudge around the parks.
As I’ve been following the same training routine for while now I thought it might be interesting to share it with you all. I’ve really been enjoying my training, especially since we’ve had an Indian summer, but I have to say that I haven't quite unlocked the joy of running that so many people claim to!
a training run in Smallfield
I started off aiming for three, three hour runs each week but as I’ve seen my fitness improve I'm now running approximately a marathon each week - across the three sessions - in much less time. The Great Langdale half marathon took me 2hrs 20mins to complete (with a little detour and plenty of hills) so I'm aiming to complete the Royal Parks half in under 2 hours. If you’re there look out for me in my Bowel Cancer UK t-shirt!
limbering up...and off I go!
When I'm not running, I’ll generally hoist my weighted jacket and a backpack full of bricks on, with total weight of 30 kg, and go for a long walk with the dogs. I aim for around 26 miles a week but at the weekend if I have enough spare time I'll go for even more and make the most of being out in the fresh air. I’ve just added a couple more bricks to the backpack, bringing the new grand total to 40 kg. This aspect of training is important as it strengthens my core in preparation for hauling 50 kg of equipment and food behind me in January.
40 kg on my back...
...plus faithful hound!
After each session, I'll strip off and jump in the pool (I’ll spare you a photo as I really do mean strip off!) which is heated by any excess power from our solar panels, so is not too cold at the moment but I think will be rapidly cooling from now on - all the better to prepare me for Antarctica!
This past weekend I enjoyed two great runs around the Devon cliffs and two big swims in the sea at Gara Rock and Prawle point – very invigorating! Thanks Adam Bryan for helping with training!
I’ve also changed my diet; after my bowel cancer I no longer eat red meat, I've cut out all alcohol and I feel fantastic! I'm amazingly energised and have watched my body shape changing after many years of over-indulgence, which is really encouraging.
Benefits of health and fitness...look like a madman!
When I signed myself up for this South Pole challenge I decided that I was going to take the training seriously. I really wanted to incorporate the Great North Run, but was unfortunately too late to enter so I entered myself in the hilliest alternative…the Great Langdale half marathon in the Lake District, where for parts we were running up hills of 1:3 gradient!
The beautiful Lake District scenery
I got up early, put on my bright green Bowel Cancer UK singlet and jumped on a train at 4:35am, arriving in time for the start at 9am. I had to ask somebody to store my bag under her cake stall as there were absolutely no facilities, and when it came to about 9 everybody stopped milling about and someone said “shall we go then?”. So off we all ran into the rolling Great Langdale hills!
Crowds at the start line
It was an absolutely glorious route, beautiful in every direction. We were periodically marshalled in the right direction until suddenly the group of runners I was with realised that we hadn't seen anyone in a while and that we had just run down a rather large hill…so eventually we spun around and ran back up to find a sheepish Marshall pointing in the other direction!
I was instructed to take a 'selfie'!
Despite the confusion and dramatic nipple chaffing from my new singlet I had a fantastic time and would love to take part again.
I'm now looking forward to the Royal Parks half marathon which I’ll be running on 12th October and following that I’ll be walking the route of Hadrian’s wall from Carlisle to Newcastle with a 35kg backpack. I’d best go and get my running shoes on!