Dragon Ride 2019

What a day that was! Easily one of the toughest but most rewarding events I’ve ever put myself through. There were plenty of high points I won’t forget in a hurry and plenty of low points that I was able to get through. The memories of it will stay with me for a long time.

It started the night before and I’m glad it did. I was reluctant to stay over to start with, but after some persuasion from Em (who as always tends to be right on these things) I found a hotel that was 15 minutes drive from the start to stay over the night before and after. This was definitely the right move and after a leisurely drive down, the b and b was perfect and after a meal and getting everything ready it was an early night as I still had an early start:

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After waking and eating plenty of porridge it was off to the start, where given it was Wales it was of course raining and it became clear I have the wrong kit. Oh well, nothing I could do about it, I just had to get on with it.  So it was a coffee and before long it was my turn to roll up to the start line and get going:

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The first few miles were, drizzly but not to bad, and before long we’d passed Tata steel and were entering our first climb, which to start with wasn’t too bad, but then it went on and on. However we were soon over this and it was then a bit of descending and onto the second climb. And that’s when the Welsh weather really decided to open up. As you can see from the pic before:

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Still I’d be through worse last year at Ride London, but this was a reminder that in all my stressing and being organised I should have brought a coat and my backpack instead of worrying about travelling light. Still if i was cold now it was going to get worse. However the climb was spectacular and the scenery made it enjoyable. It wasn’t a particularly hard climb just long.

After that it was onto the first rest stop, where a bit of food (the potatoes were as good as hyped!) a wee, and water top up it was back out there, knowing the toughest climb was on the horizon, the Devil’s Elbow. The weather cleared here and it was a lovely ride over the Penderyn Moor and my pace was reasonable. I knew the ride would be long but I was not wanting to be swept up by the broom wagon so I was focused on maintaining a pace over 13mph and honestly before the Ride I wasn’t sure I could. For now though it was going well.

So of course it started to rain as I approached the Elbow which was the steepest Gradient. And at this point the bike started making a nice rattly noise. So I did what any good cyclist would do… I ignored it. Thankfully after crawling up the Elbow… it went quiet. I stopped checked the bike and couldn’t see anything. So I rode on knowing rest stop 2 wasn’t far off and I could get it looked at. But as i rode in I hadn’t heard any other issues so I filled up quickly and it was back out.

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And this section would prove to be the toughest mentally. As it really opened up and the temperature dropped. It really got under my skin, literally and I was shaking and shivering and just hanging on mentally. I was doing ok pace wise but the next section just went on and on. But I got through the long climb eventually, but it took a lot of digging deep and as I rode into the third rest stop, I was freezing. I knew I had to keep moving and i looked over to the first aid to see people in foil blankets to know I wasn’t alone this was a mentally tough moment. Thankfully, I ate and just got on with it, I had to hope if I kept moving i’d warm up.

And boy did I! straight out it was a very steep hill and i couldn’t stand as I cramped, still I got up and thats when the spoke went ping and the noise really ramped up. So I was cold, with a dodgy wheel now. But a couple of things happened. The hill had warmed me up, standing up and cramping made me realise I’d not eaten enough so I scoffed some gels. And the weather broke. So on I Rode hoping the bike would keep it together. And the next bit became some beautiful scenary. Just endless moor land and the sun out. I was now burning! It just shows how much the conditions change on a ride like this.

Then it was Black Mountains time and this was going to be a climb at 7.1 km long and a 5% average, which you could see coming a long way off, it was strap your self in time. I got into a steady pace, and got on with it. The legs were heavy, but i knew get over this and the hard work is done, you just had to peddle to get the last 70km in. So I didn’t break any records but It was a lovely climb, my favourite type, stunning switchbacks, beautiful scenary, it was one of those moments you took in what you were doing and it was just a great moment. Until you went round a bend and saw there was more bloody climbing to do!

Still before long I was at the top.

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Then it was an amazing descent, and It felt good to be out on the bike, the previous low spell all but forgotten and just a fun fast few miles beckoned before rolling into one of the best feed zones ever. There was coffee, seats and the friendliest volunteers ever.

From here it was just 45km and a small climb, so I was buzzing, all the doubt and worry was gone I was going to do this. I was going to cycle 140 Miles and double the climbing i’d ever done. The last hill wasn’t hard just a slog and i knew get over this its done and sure enough the last 23km were ok before long I was rolling in.

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And I was over the line in 9 hours 15 minutes which i thought was respectable, I had 11 in my head.

 

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It was a celebration of Steak and Ice cream later that night.

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So challenge 2 is done. And I guess I can safely say that was harder than the Marathon but equally as enjoyable. I’m very chuffed I did it, clearly I must be as I’ve already signed up for next year. And I’ve decided another marathon will be on the cards too, I’m waiting to hear if I get into London again, if not i’ll find another.

But for now, its a bit of a rest, and just running and cycling for fun. Next up is Ride London, but before that I’m looking forward to a holiday with my lovely wife in Barcelona. I think i’ve earnt a rest.

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London Marathon 2019

This has been a hard blog to write. Cause it feels like when I push the publish button, that’s it. Its all over done. Something that was such a big part of my life that something I thought I’d never do, has a line drawn under it and It is consigned to history. It’s hard to write about because it was everything I hoped it would be, was promised it would be and a lot more.

I genuinely enjoyed every minute of it. From jumping on the train in the morning, full of porridge ( I cannot thank Becky and her family enough, they did so much to look after me and make sure I was ready) Music playing. I felt calm and ready from the outset. The nerves never seemed to come. And It was great to soak it all up, all the people, the atmosphere was great and people were so friendly.

Arriving at the start with a coffee, I felt chilled out. It was odd and most unlike me. I dropped my bag off, left my headphones in and just quietly warmed up. The waiting, which normally drives me mad, never really affected me.  It wasn’t long before we started to queue and make our way to the start line. Still music playing, a bit of chatting seeing people in some insane costumes, I was getting excited and getting caught up in the mood.

Before long it was nearly my time. So the headphones went away. I felt excitement as the countdown started and before long, I was off. And it felt good to be going. Its hard to describe it, but all the way through the support the atmosphere it was brilliant. Random strangers cheering your name, encouragement, the boost for your ego was great. I started out on a good pace and never really felt like it was horrifically hard. It got hard but on the whole the training and hard work had paid off. And I felt vindicated for all the time I put in preparing.

There were so many highlights, from dancing along to the drums and music as we went, to the oggy ogg ogg oggys, the amazing costumes, the boost of seeing other Winstons Wish runners but here is my best attempts to summarise:

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Cutty Sark is the first big point and it was busy and spectacular, the first real “Bloody hell I’m doing this!”

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Tower Bridge is a great moment too.

Just after this I got to see the Winston’s Wish supporters and my amazing wife and a few mates. The support was such a buzz and I felt really good just over half way and was able to keep a good pace.

All the way round you see so much stuff and its really hard to take it in, for me there was no real stand out moment, just a collection of moments that merge together to make it truly amazing.

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At mile 22 I saw my wife again and the boost was amazing It really got me going again. Around here is when my legs let me know it was tough and while it still felt a sub 4 hour time was doable, I knew it was going to be a tough. I’d taken a pace band for 4 hours 20 and knew that I could beat that. But it was a struggle from mile 22 – 25. It was here the legs ached, my back hurt and It was the mental battle. I was determined not to walk at all, and that was perhaps what I’m most proud of, that I was able to run the whole thing. Not that I don’t have anything but respect for those that had to do some walking, but it was a big thing for me, a man who could barely run a mile at one point, to run all of the 26.2 mile route, only stopping once for a pee!

The crowd here was so good, and from mile 25 I knew I was going to make it and coming into the Mall really was special… I tried to give it one last kick, but couldn’t which was a good feeling, as it meant I had nothing left. I genuinely think I paced it as well as I could and had nothing left.

I crossed the line in a time of 4.06:40 and that felt amazing! It was great to get my medal and It wasn’t long after that it hit me how much I hurt! I made my way to Trafalgar square and finally sat down, and I felt rough. Forcing some food down me till Becky turned up and I forced myself to stand. Em arrived after and it was amazing to see her and share the moment with her, shes been there all the way and her support means so much to me. It was amazing all the thank yous and congratulations and enjoying a beer and as much food as I could.

 

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It really was a special day and I definitely want another crack at a Marathon, my brain is convinced I can get under 4 hours, so I need to at least try. Before that though is a crack at the Welsh Mountains and I’ll update you on that in another blog.

For now though I have so many of you to thank. Em for always believing in me, supporting me and understanding all I went through. Neil for being a great training partner. Ed for coming along to support. Alex for being there too. Becky and all the Ravic clan for hosting, feeding and being amazing. Anyone who sponsored me I’ve raised £2336.55 so far which is insane.

Dad that was for you.

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1 Week to go.

So, we are less than a week out from the London Marathon now, which means the nerves are starting to kick in, but equally so is the excitement. I’ve been expecting all of this though so I’m feeling pretty good, and leaning towards being more excited than nervous, but that will go around and around my head this week so it’s all about staying focused and positive as much as possible. I’d like to think I’ve gotten a lot better at that, than I ever used to be in the past, when I’d often gravitate towards feeling the worst about it. Now I am able to picture how good it will be to cross the finish line, finding Em and my friends and enjoying the moment. That certainly motivates me, as does thinking of Dad.

It’s helped having a very restful weekend, with my lovely wife for Easter and being able to enjoy the beautiful Dorset countryside and some lovely weather. Although I’m very grateful the forecast is for cooler weather next Sunday! That’s  an example of how these two weeks of tapering seem to be going. Everything comes back to the run. Is the weather going to be ok? is the transport ok? Have I trained enough? Have I got everything ready? Stop getting wound up, relax.. am I eating the right food? God I could do with a run….

Its a never ending battle to mentally stay on top of it and be positive and to remember that you’ve done all you can do and now its too late to change anything. Suck it up, do a couple of short runs to stay loose, keep relaxing, eat well and stay positive. Trust yourself and your prep work.

I’ve learn a lot about myself in the build up to the Marathon and I’m sure by the end of the run I’ll have learn even more. Its a big build up to our self-belief and I feel more confident in myself and my limits than I ever though I would. Whatever happens Sunday, I feel I’ve come a long way.

Equally though, you learn now to get ahead of yourself or get ideas above your station. I was on the radio this morning and met some amazing people, all with their own stories to tell, you have to remember that the Marathon is an individual event and while you do things your way others are doing it their way and doing amazing things too. It has helped to give me some simple tips on the day (take an old jumper!) but reminded me not to change anything major, such as what I eat, how much I run, that’s all done now and changing it up at this point will do more harm than good.

So now its just waiting, which as many people who know me will tell you, I’m not good at. Still having a greater goal to push for, amazing support, Game of Thrones to catch up on and a few days in the office, will all help me to stay relaxed. Patience Russ, you’ve come this far just stick to the plan.

I’m so close to my goal now Its amazing how much backing I’ve had. I am so stunned by all the support its blown me away to be sitting on £1625.50 a massive thank you to everyone who has sponsored me. Its not too late to sponsor me if you still want to at the link below:

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/gorussgo

I’ll be back with a post in a couple of days but for now thanks for reading!

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Why do all of this?

Do you ever have those moments in your life that make you feel old? You know that moment where someone from a younger generation is ignorant of something you took for granted, like not knowing what dial up Internet is, or who when you talk fondly of the glory days of sport and mention some obscure 90s footballer and they have no idea who they are.

The moment that made me take stock and have that wow moment…. Realising its been 26 years since my dad died and that I’m not far off the age he was when he died. Its funny how memory works. There are things I can remember vividly about dad, often its things you wish you could block out, I’d love for example not to remember so vividly the day he died or the fact that no matter how hard I try I’ll never forget that moment at 11 years old of walking into the funeral directors and seeing dad in a coffin prepared for his funeral. I can remember the pain, there has never been anything quite like it. There are moments I wish I could remember better, I have to try very hard to remember his laugh for example, or what he sounded like. I wish I had listened when he bollocked me as a kid and could remember any of those lectures he gave me. They were dull at the time but now I’d give anything to hear one of his bits of wisdom.

I often wonder what he’d think of me. For example I voted remain. Dad? Well Dad would have voted leave but I think he’d have been ok with that. He was his own man, he didn’t suffer fools and I got my sarcasm and wit from him. My stubborn streak? Dad. My shyness? Dad. He always pushed me to want better, to do better than he did. Yes that’s most parents, but like all of you, my dad was the best dad.

You see some of my drive in life, some of what defines me as a person, the reason I want to do well and continue to push.. I want his approval. I want that moment where he’d be sat with a pint and look at me and say. “I’m proud of you.” and  its never going to come.

The thing with losing someone to suicide is that its  so sudden. They’re there one minute, the next there is a gaping hole in your life, where they used to be and you strive to fill it and doing that..well,  simply put it can fuck you up.

I learnt a long time ago, all of the above, that striving to fill a void is an exercise in futility. It won’t go away. Its part of me now. Dad left a line in his suicide note. It wasn’t a big thing to him as he wrote it, but it said (I was about to start secondary school) (this is paraphrased as I’ve not read the note in years, nor do I have any desire to) “Make me proud at your new school.” That first bit makes me proud, it was stuck in my head. It gnawed at me for years and I put so much pressure on myself, to achieve something that I couldn’t do.

Thanks to Winston’s Wish I had help and support to deal with that, to learn how to deal with grief. They don’t make things magically better, but give you tools to cope with grief and to accept there is a void in your life, where a loved one, once was. But ultimately you have to move forward with life.

For me, even after counselling, I spent a long time trying to live my life to please my dad. I ate to cope and I look back now and realise I wasn’t happy. Then something changed, I started doing stuff for myself, I started playing rugby, I studied for my masters, I got in shape, I met Em as a result, and things started to fall together. You know what?  By being my own man, I think I might finally have started doing what I set out to do.

So when I do these challenges I do it for a number of reasons I guess:

  • To give back to a charity that let me live a normal life
  • For dad
  • For me

I guess the biggest message I’ve learnt from losing Dad (and forgive me as this is a bit cheesy) Life is precious, and I didn’t realise that straight away and I don’t remember it all the time. I can be miserable and rude and ignorant to others but ultimately I try to remember people can be taken away just like that, so appreciate them while you have them.  If there is something you want to do and you can do it; go and bloody do it. If you fail, so what? At least you tried. (n.b sometimes you might need to listen to people though- my first idea back when I first wanted to give back to Winston’s wish was cycle around Cambodia and Vietnam… Em helpfully pointed out that this might be an ambitious first step).. so I guess lesson 2 is have an amazing person to support you and keep you on level ground.

So it helps me cope, its an outlet and if as a side effect it helps to raise money so more people can have support to cope, then.. well I’m going to keep asking for you all to support and sponsor me.

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/gorussgo

 

50 days to go! AKA oh look at that wall I’m about to run into.

That’s how long I have until I am at the starting line of the London Marathon. Or 7 Weeks. I’m not sure which is the more scary way to put it. I’ve been preparing well, but still so much to do; In terms of both the training and fundraising.

Every time I do these events, I reach a point, it’s normally about halfway through, where the training gets a bit harder, you plateau. And the same with the fundraising. It goes well to start, you see big improvements, money comes in. Then it starts to level, the distance hurts a little more each time you increase, you don’t make the strides in performance you were, it gets harder to get donations. This slips into you head, this isn’t going as well as I thought, Am i up to this, can I over come this, will I get through this, have I done enough, Am i asking too much, am I annoying people constantly going on about it. Am i letting people down, am I letting myself down?

Deep down you know the truth and you know you have to ride it out. That it’ll pass. But that doesn’t stop you. Like now you worry you should be training more or plugging more. But both are not advisable. Over train and you risk injury. Bug people too much and you piss them off. So what can you do?

Stick to the plan. I’ve hit 18.5 miles on a long run. On Tuesday I took 2.25 minutes off my pb. So far so good, don’t panic now, 7 weeks is plenty. You just need to get to 20 miles, keep eating and recovering well. You are going in the right direction.

And don’t be afraid to mix up the training. Today I didn’t feel like a long run so went out on the bike and I forgot how much I love cycling and the change was nice. I know next week I have to get back to a long run, and now I’m looking forward to it and thinking about the next cycle too.

Fundraising, prizes are coming in, donations are coming in. I’m nearly a quarter of the way there, £460. And I’ve not done anything yet, I have the quiz to come. I have the events to come. I have people I know who will donate who just haven’t yet. And I know I will keep working.

Mostly though, I think about how much I want to cross those lines. To run up the Mall in London and know I’ve done something I didn’t ever thing I’d do, Run a Marathon. I want to complete the Dragon Ride, to do an Ultra Endurance Cycle and to then get a personal best at Ride London and Cycle under 6 Hours. If these were easy it wouldn’t be fun! I know I can do this .

So I know I have a long way to go and this is part of it. The self-doubt but I will come through it. I’ve done it before so I can do it now.

The there are 3 main motivations. I’m doing it for the charity, sure I want to raise money for them and I owe them more than I can ever express. I’m doing in for my dad, I want him to be proud.

But ultimately, I’m doing it for me, and the person I used to be:

 

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That was me in Dublin in 2006, around my Birthday. I was massively out of shape and probably way more unhappy than I realised. Back then I thought a lot of stuff wasn’t achievable.

Now this is me:

 

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Its been a big change and required me to push myself a lot in 12 years. So I feel I have to keep going, to prove to the old me, we can do all that stuff we used to think we couldn’t.

So this is my motivation and the thing that keeps me going. The reason I run when its cold and wet and I don’t want to. Cause I want to finish, I want to do this and if that means doing some hard stuff… so be it.

Not a machine

I’m by no means an expert, but I’ve done a few endurance events now and when you talk about these sort of things to people, often you get a few clichés about it. One that was new to me the other day when I remarked I’d run 15 miles, was said by a co-worker as I was making my morning coffee:

“Wow you are a machine.”

Now at the time I didn’t think much about this, I was bleary eyed sleepy and ironically sore from my run two days prior so we carried on talking. something about it must have bugged me and gnawed at me, because, wel, I’m blogging about it!

… and I think its this; I’m most definitely not a machine!

A machine, to me could just crack on with the training, smash the miles, devoid of emotional responses, need the odd bit of tuning up, but for the most part just crack on with it- It would complete all the tasks in front of it and move onto the next one.

That is most certainly not me. For the most part, I enjoy the training but there are days when I really don’t want to do it, it might be raining or cold, or I might be tired, or had a tough day at work. The last thing I want to do is train. Often I make myself, but if I was a machine I wouldn’t do that. I also have days where fundraising is a pain, or exercise is a pain, or i get annoyed be cause I have real life responsibilities (I mean for some reason my wife likes to spend time with me!)

I think the long and short of it is; I know I’m going to have good and bad days on this journey. Some days I’ll smash the training and feel amazing for it. Other days like yesterday, getting out and getting a run done is enough in itself, I might just not train as I don’t feel up to it.I think if I see myself as some machine that can do all of this, I will become complacent or I won’t respect the challenges infront of me. I’m fitter than I’ve probably ever been, but I might hit a wall, or get ill, or start to lose form.

If that is the case being a machine won’t get through that, but being human will. Digging deep and remembering why i’m doing what I’m doing and being mentally resilient, that’s going to do that. When there is that mile that seems to go on forever, or that hill that just never ends; that’s when my mentality is going to come to the fore.

#RideLondon
#LondonMarathon
#DragonRide
#Myadventures

 

 

 

Making Progress… one mile at a time

Its crazy to think that 20 days of 2019 have already gone by. Crazier still to think its only just over 2 weeks to me and Em escape to Iceland for a much needed holiday. Even crazier is its only 13 weeks till the London Marathon. I also have to be aware of the dragon ride looming not to far after that. So certainly lots to keep me busy, before you add in the fundraising and work and a life with the wife in to the mix!

Thankfully the training is coming on well. Yesterday was a big psychological goal hit. I managed to hit 15 Miles on my long run. I’d gone out thinking if I hit a half Marathon Distance, I would be happy, but by luck more than Judgement myself and my running partner over calculated the distance and by the time I hit the finish line, I had 15 miles in my legs! I felt super chuffed at the time, knowing I’d been able to push it that far and find that distance at this point in my training without feeling I’d over done it. Of course the reality hits later that I still have to find another 11 miles, but if you can’t enjoy the moments of achievement on the journey, then its pointless doing all of this.

I think the fact I hit this by accident was good, because there was a moment when I realised we were still a distance from home and this was the distance we would have to do. But because I had to get home, there was nothing doing, but to shrug my shoulders, get my head down and just get on with it. If I’d had to do the distance knowingly, It might have been that bit harder psychologically. Even the rain was rather cathartic, you learn to accept the weather is what it is and that its not an excuse, if it pisses down on the day of the Marathon, I’m running in it, so I need to accept that and just get on with it. A good mental trick I learnt is to go “But that doesn’t bother me.” It really does help and helps you adjust your mindset and focus on the things that really do matter to you.

 

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Now I know I can hit that distance, with 11 more miles to find and the weather isn’t a factor.  But crucially yesterday it felt like I had more in my legs. The key is not to over do it though, so it was good to hold back. I’m not worrying about pace at this point just distance. I’d by lying if I don’t get those moments of self-doubt, can I really do this, will I hit the fundraising targets, do people believe in me. But you just have to keep plugging away. I’m only human I’ll get those moments and I have to just plug away. None of that will matter when I cross the finish line.

In addition, I’m slowly upping the distance on the turbo trainer and the climbing too, which is good strength wise for both running and cycling. The cycling I’m more confident on, I’ve done distances before, but I know I have to work on developing my climbing legs. And being confident is not the same, as respecting the Dragon Ride. Its a tough route and probably beaten people who are more capable than I on a bike, so I’m making sure I’m prepared.

So I’m feeling it today, but being sensible and resting, before I go again next week. I got recommended a good book, which is helping with the mental aspect of the running. So far I’m finding it ok, It has its tough moments, but I still feel fresh and strong. So we will see how that progresses.

The fundraising is slow at this point, but that’s to be expected, I am in the process of organising a few things to hit my goal, including a quiz details of which can be found below should you wish to attend:

https://www.facebook.com/events/241352773430085/

As always if you want to sponsor me you can at:

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/gorussgo