Spanish Blues

El MariachiIMG_1480

Tough one today. Not only have I been ill for the most of the weekend, so unable to train (just 11 km to go this week to hit my monthly target for February) but half my family is currently in South America – my Mum has been in Argentina & Uruguay for the last few weeks and my Sister landed in Guatemala yesterday morning – and we have nearly 6 months until we can get out there!

I guess the closest I will be getting in the next few months is my weekly Spanish class at Birmingham Uni; something of a necessity after last time we visited Chile, where I was sure my GCSE level Spanish would get us by, despite the best part of 15 years since my last lesson. To be fair I was getting on alright at first, but the decision was made for me one evening in a tapas bar, where I ordered (from a list of 9 dishes, see pic above) 8 different plates with everything except the pate, and the camarero instead brought us 8 portions of pate. He did see the funny side, but to be fair you had to be there…

Coming from a family where your Mum is a Spanish teacher (at my own school no less) you would think the linguistic flair would pass on, but unfortunately neither Lucy nor I quite lived up to it, although funnily enough she is also now studying the language again after similarly falling in love with Latin America and spending six months last year on some of the Chile Challenge route, and they are probably both using it as I type.

But the next visit will be different, and by August my communication should be pretty spot on, particularly after the masterpiece I have written for this week’s homework: a 300 word essay on the fantastic film ‘El Mariachi’, which should win me a job at the Spanish equivalent of Empire or Total Film any day! So after 9 months learning to tell the pluperfect from the imperfect, I reckon this time should go a lot better, and who knows, if I do end up buying a watch (reloj) and it turns out to be broken, at least I will be able to write a damn near perfect letter of complaint in Spanish to the store manager…

PS. Mum & Lucy, if you are reading this out there, hope you are having a fantastic time!

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Music of the Month: February

Rocky 4 MontageIMG_1500

It is time to come clean here and admit to what really makes up a large part of my iTunes playlist, and tends to be the one thing that is guaranteed to keep me going when I start to feel tired on a long run or bike ride. Yes, it is dodgy 80’s action film soundtracks!

And if we learned one thing from these films, it was that real men had mullets and massive biceps, and whilst you might think that Arnie and Sly might rather arm wrestle than run a triathlon, there is a good link here. These action powerhouses basically invented training montages to show the hero’s progress quickly and ensure they could maximise the action scenes (in the words of Team America, ‘going from just a beginner to a pro’) they would usually accompany scenes of tough workouts, hard runs and plenty of tears – exactly like the Chile Challenge.

The ultimate example for me are the two main montages from Rocky IV, which are now part of my tradition to watch before every big race to get in the zone. I even managed to watch it on the way to Easter Island last year (see photo above) so even more reason to highlight as the number one for this month’s music feature. But any of the below will inevitably feature numerous times during the course of this challenge, so I have no shame in admitting my love for the following:

  • No Easy Way Out – Rocky IV
  • Danger Zone – Top Gun
  • You’re the Best Around – Karate Kid
  • The Heat is On – Beverly Hills Cop
  • Push it to the Limit – Scarface
  • The Touch – Transformers
  • We Fight For Love – Commando
  • Fight to Survive – Bloodsport
  • Nobody Rides for Free – Point Break
  • You Could be Mine – T2

Sporting Heroes – February

Paul Walker surf

I was watching a film last night which made me remember that I wanted to dedicate this month’s sporting heroes to someone who you might not necessarily associate with this challenge, but hear me out here.

On 1 December last year, Paul Walker died tragically in a car accident. For most people he will be remembered for the Fast & Furious films which, lets be fair, are pretty damn entertaining, and Paul holds his own well against some seriously big guys like Vin & The Rock.

Personally I have always been a fan of Paul’s, both from a movie and training point of view. I have read loads of articles about how he was a huge fan of outdoor fitness – mountain biking, surfing, scuba, etc (for example http://www.menshealth.co.uk/building-muscle/bodyweight-exercises/paul-walker-outdoor-training-regime) – and I am pretty sure he would have been a fan of the Chile Challenge!

Unfortunately, baring a bit of diving in Into the Blue, you did not often get to see this side of him on screen, so I am looking forward to the release of  one of his last film Brick Mansions, a remake of the fantastic French District 13, to see him get to do some real running on screen.

So whilst it is a real shame Paul will not be about to see the film released, it will hopefully be a fitting send off for a fantastic fitness hero.

Astonishing Fact of the Week!

Lands End Sign

I was listening to the radio the other day and heard about Davina’s outstanding achievement, completing a similar challenge to mine (although I started this one first, just saying!) with 500 miles of triathlons from Edinburgh to London – although fair play as hers was done in just 7 days…

It made me think, most people reading this (if there are any) will have a fair idea of the distance from say London to Edinburgh even if they have never done the journey itself, for example just driving a portion of the M1.

But in terms of a 4270 km Chile challenge, it is hard to put things into context, as far fewer people will have done something like this before. So I tried to think of some comparisons:

One way would be that it is just over 100 marathons (or 2 per week) – although obviously I am biking a fair portion so that is probably not the best…

Another would be that it is just under 20 Iron-distance triathlons, but no one I know has actually done one, so again not that helpful either…

So I resorted to the way I originally worked this out, the source of all knowledge, the mighty wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geography_of_Chile if you were wondering.

I then spent a while trying various other distances in an effort to find something easier to relate to, and it turns out that London to Moscow or Cairo are too short, and London to Dubai or New York are too long. No luck there then.

Then a day or so later I had a flash of inspiration, and discovered a truly astonishing fact (hence the title of this entry): Randomly putting in London to the North Pole, turns out it is 4281 km – basically the exact the same distance! See this link for proof:  http://wiki.answers.com/Q/What_is_the_distance_from_London_to_the_North_Pole?#slide=2

So there you have it. If running, swimming and biking the length of Chile means nothing to you, then just swap it for London to the North Pole! In fact this could have been called North Pole challenge, although realistically I think that is probably well trademarked, I don’t have any picture of me to put up, and to be honest it just does not sound as cool!

PS. The Lands End picture is not really relevant, but I love this sign and it looked good. Also my Dad used to be one of the official photographers here (#claimtofame!).

Indoor Triathlon

Indoor Tri

I don’t really want to be posting on every session this year, as it does not make for the most exciting read (although I am not sure who actually follows these…) but I thought it was worth making a note of a decent one today, my best of the year so far.

Given the amazing weather we have had so far this year I have been forced into extreme measures, and have invented (well claimed anyway) a kind of indoor sprint triathlon involving:

  • 1 km concept 2 row
  • 27 km bike (further than I meant to but I got carried away)
  • 5 km run
  • plus a 500 m swim thrown in at the end for good measure

I was not really timing it properly, and obviously did not run in a transition style (might have got some strange looks in the gym) but from what I can remember it took about 100 mins , so slightly faster than my time in my last outdoor sprint event – not too shabby for the first of the year, and plenty more to come!

Kitting Out Part One – Swimming

50206_HSB12_SOW_000150

Ask many Triathletes for their favourite elements of the sport, and many will admit it is the variety of equipment they have an excuse to buy! Yes, you can probably get into it with a swimsuit, borrowed bike and pair of trainers, but in reality once you get sucked into the world of multi-sport there is no way back…

So anyway, my next series of posts will be on the kit I am currently using as part of this challenge, and will keep this updated during the year as I get on. First up, swimming:

The above picture sums up most of what you need for an outdoor swim. Wetsuit is pretty much essential (in the UK anyway!), and my faithful Orca S2 has been good to me since my first ever open water tri-swim.  As well as the obvious not-freezing-to-death benefits, they offer increased buoyancy to keep you in a good swimming position, and some more expensive suits even offer features such as fancy arm panels to catch the water and make you swim even faster. Once you finish the swim, you generally need to be able to rip the suit off as fast as possible and get on your bike, so racers tend to also cover wrists, ankles and neck with plenty of lube to help out, which always makes an interesting start line to an event.

I also have various pairs of goggles depending on the conditions. Above I am modeling my Aquasphere Eagles. which are better for duller days (i.e. British summer) and have decent all round vision, but I also own a darker pair for sunny days, and also another set with purple lenses (I am not sure why really, but they look cool).

Most races tend to give you a snazzy hat to swim with, although I always seem to either end up with bright yellow or shocking pink. Someone did point out to me early on though, that if you did have difficulties, it would be better to be nice and high-viz than in a cool looking black hat at the bottom of the lake…

Next time – Bike Gear!

Sporting Heroes – January

Ronnie Running

Carrying on my theme from the other day of music to motivate you, I am going to start a new series of motivational figures from the world of sport.

Kicking things off is snooker master ‘The Rocket’ Ronnie O’Sullivan, a fellow Essex man like myself (according to my passport at least), who was actually born just a few miles away from this part of the West Midlands. Ronnie’s recent performances in the Masters and World tournaments have been simply amazing, even more so after taking the best part of a year out of the game, and struggling to cope with his talent.

But what has this got to do with this challenge? Well beyond our shared genius obviously, if you have not already guessed from the picture accompanying this post, Ronnie is a massive runner. To the extent that is what he titled his own autobiography last year. He was recently quoted as saying “Running clears my mind, and gives me a reason to get out of bed in the morning”, and I would say the same for all triathlon disciplines, that they can help you focus, clear your mind, give you time to think things through and help plan ahead. In fact, if I do manage to get through this distance, I should end up like some sort of zen master…

So here’s to you Ronnie, as the first Sporting Hero of the blog, and if it makes you play snooker as well as you do, please keep up the running!