Ignoring the Voices

Reading my blog back for a change, I seem to write a fair amount of posts on here which involve staying at some sort of hotel / venue for work / holiday and getting up far too early in the morning for a run.

So rather than break with tradition, today’s entry is for the exact same thing!

This one involved me staying at a conference centre in the middle of the countryside, not too far from Warwick in the Midlands,  on a two-day course which involved a dinner / drinks / stay over in the middle. Needless to say we made the most of the hospitality on offer (as one does on these things) and it was a fairly late night.

The next morning I found myself woken up at a far-too-early seeming hour, and looked down in alarm at the kit bag I had brought along in the usual expectation I would be hitting the trails first-thing. Worse still, I had a vague memory of telling just about everyone I met the night before that I would be getting up to do this, despite their laughter and assurances there was no way it was going to happen.

The next thing I knew I had one of those angel / devil moments in my head, where I subconsciously went through the arguments for and against getting out of bed for a nice cold September morning run. As far as I can remember it went something like this…

Peter Griffin Angel Devil


  • Aghh, it’s too early in the morning – It’s 6.45 on a Tuesday, you are usually up by now for work anyway
  • You only went to bed a few hours ago – You can sleep again tonight!
  • The bed is nice and warm – You are going to have to get up at some point, and a run will keep you warm
  • You are not in any condition to run – Yes, last night may have involved half a bottle of merlot and a bucket of Coronas, but you need to make up for it somehow!
  • You don’t have enough time for a long run – 20 minutes is better than nothing at all…
  • There is going to be nowhere around here to run – That’s fine, just loop around the grounds a few times
  • It is raining outside – If you run properly you will end up dripping wet anyway
  • Your running kit will be wet all day – So what else is new?
  • You are starving hungry – What better way to prepare for a cooked breakfast?
  • No one will even know if you don’t do it – I will…
  • Are you really sure about this? – Damn right I am!

Leamington hotel

So next thing I knew I was creeping my way around the hotel to find my way into the grounds, trying not to stumble into doorways and wake up my colleagues. Sadly my fears that the surrounding area would not quite be as exotic as I would have liked turned out to be true, resulting in me having to run three 1 km loops of a field at the front of the building (see picture above).

Furthermore, it turned out to be raining a bit more than I had thought, meaning the grass was fairly saturated so there were plenty of puddles & rabbit holes to test out my socks & ankles, as well as my patience, but I made it around without too much hassle in the end.

Yes, it was a tough run, in fairly poor conditions and a ropey area, but as I said above, going for any run is better than not going for a run, and I am starting to realise I must enjoy it a bit more than I let on, otherwise there is no way I could drag myself out for something like this. So here is to plenty more early morning runs to write about in the coming year!


Colour Obstacle Rush: 13/9/15

After a string of fairly serious races, including a couple of killer half-Ironmans (or should that be Ironmen?), last weekend took something of a different tack. As I mentioned earlier, my wife had entered a team of us into a slightly different type of race: The Colour Obstacle Rush (COR) in Sheffield. The name of the event somewhat says it all, but for those who have not seen one of these before allow me to explain:

  • Colour – Well, you may get a clue about this from the photos, and there was certainly a lot of this on the day!
  • Obstacle – That’s a big Ten-Four! Plenty of these to climb over / around / through.
  • Rush – Note this was not a race, but what could only be described as a crazed run around!


The event took place at Rother Valley Country Park to the South East of the city, and about ten minutes from my in-laws. I had visited the place a couple of times before, and it has a decent sized lake, surrounded by paths and woodland. You would almost never know you were just a few miles away from the place formerly known as Steel City due to its industrial heritage.

As soon as we arrived at the venue we were transported straight back to our childhoods, with the park taken over by the event organisers and now resembling a giant playground, with what seemed to be bouncy castles, slides, climbing frames and a huge stage which was booming out classic 90’s dance tunes.

This was my first ever team event (not including a triathlon relay some years ago as I still had to swim my leg alone) so I was really excited to have people to run with. We had eight in our team, aka ‘Soul Mates’, 3 chicos and 5 chicas. Alarmingly I was the most experienced racer, and although I was not particularly concerned at a 5 km yomp, this was all new to me.

Amongst the others, only one other was a regular runner at this distance, but everyone was in decent enough shape to make sure we would get around. In fact looking at some of the other teams it was clear why this was described as a rush rather than race, as many would not be getting out of second gear. To be fair once we got going I realised it was more an event to savour, and we actually found we slowed down a lot and even stopped at points to take it all in.

On registering we were given our fun packs, the main thing being a lovely clean (for now) white t-shirt, and our classy matching pink headbands and shades (essential to avoid a PJ & Duncan situation). We also received our first paint packs, having all been curious to see what these would involve. Fortunately they were not heavy paint cans, but plastic pouches containing a dyed corn starch, which covered a very satisfying are when thrown. We did hold off as long as we could before opening them, but of course not everyone could wait, and all of a sudden we were ambushed by one of the girls (it is always the quiet ones!) and from there it basically turned into carnage!


Our miniature battle (likened by one of us to the battle at the end of Zulu) was brought to an end by the announcers calling us for the warm up. Being one of the earlier waves we had not yet seen any finishers and thought we had a lot of paint on us at that point – oh how wrong we were! The 90’s music was turned up, and about 300 of us launched into a large outdoor version of Body Attack, bouncing around and preparing for this crazy event.


Warm-up done, we were ushered towards the start line, and able to have a proper look at our first ‘obstacle’. This could best really be described as a reverse car wash, with everyone being funnelled through a start chute into an giant foam pit, simultaneously being showered with orange paint by the slightly over enthusiastic marshals. The whole place looked like a massive orange milkshake!

As we emerged I noticed the marshals wandering around and trampling through the foam. As first I assumed they were making the most of the fun, but then realised they must have been looking for stray bodies if anyone fell into the abyss – who said this was an easy event?! That second, as if to prove the point, a lady on our left took a huge fall into a puddle and soaked us with the splash. After about half a second to make sure it was not too serious we glanced at each other and could not hold in the laughter, necessitating one of the fastest sprints of the day in an effort to hide it.

There were around ten obstacles along the route, so one every 500 metres or so, and the first turned out to be fairly typical: an inflatable tunnel about 10 metres long which we had to crawl through. Again, it was not quite as easy as expected, and Ange in particular broke down laughing half-way through, presumably still getting over the previous incident.


Team safely through we carried on, and proceeded to get through a series of alternating obstacles, going between inflatables such as bouncy climbing frames and a sort of maze which reminded us all of Takeshi’s Castle, and colour tents where you had to climb through or under nets, whilst being pelted with paint by more of those over-zealous marshals. We quickly learned to shut our mouths and eyes during the latter ones, as one taste of the paint power was enough to put you off ingesting it again.

As you can see I had my phone camera on me, but having had to wrap it in a plastic bag to shield it from the paint, the quality of the images was not great. A few competitors had go-pro type cameras with chest harnesses which looked great, although I if I did own one I am not sure how much I would fancy it being covered in paint, and as for the sharp edges going over those inflatable obstacles, well that was just an accident waiting to happen!


The further we got through the race the more and more of us was covered: there was literally no part of our bodies free from colour! One of the fun parts was each station used a different colour paint, so as the route was basically an out and back loop, you could see what point other runners were at by what colour they were. By the final stages of the race we were all but unrecognisable, Big Jon looking alarmingly like Lou Ferrigno as the Hulk, whilst Rob was more… well… the Pink Panther, as I am sure you will agree from the above picture! Me, well of course I was Ironman again, with a big glowing circle in the middle of my chest – well that was my view, although I have a memory of one of our team being called Papa Smurf!

Around this point I think I may have also killed my Garmin, as not only did it get covered in paint (although most washed off) but the battery died in the final kilometre. Admittedly this took slightly longer than normal at around 45 minutes (to be fair we had to stop and wait for a few of the obstacles) but given I had started with 88% battery I was not too happy. It did re-animate itself after a charge, and I managed to map the majority of the race as you can see below, but not sure I want to rely on it again for a triathlon: Time for an upgrade to 920xt next year perhaps?

Colour Rush

Anyway, we made sure we all reached the final obstacle at the same time, a rope climb followed by a fun slide down the other side and over the line. Competitive to the end we stood in a long line together and raced up to the top, but this was one of those races where we were all winners (although I reckon I crossed first of course!). We were then into the after-party, which was basically ensuring any last part of the body not covered with paint was rectified, and downing glasses of water to take away any last starch taste. Oh, and like any good race an ice cream too! I was dead proud of my team for all getting through so strongly, and everyone was so pleased with how well the day went and were immediately planning a rematch of this course as well as some more events for next year: That is if I ever manage to get this damn paint off!




Buddy Training Part Two

After the success of my first ever buddy run in Cornwall over the summer, I thought I would try to repeat the trick last weekend. Naturally I decided I had to step things up a notch, and what better way to do so than running with my lovely wife!

Now in the not  too distant past this would never have been an option to either of us: me as I tended to prefer do my triathlon training alone and had yet to experience the motivational benefits of having someone to run alongside; and my other half as basically she hated running! That is not to say she could not run, having done Race For Life a few years earlier and plenty of fitness from going to the gym 4 or 5 times per week, but in general she has always been more into group exercise classes or the odd bit of cross training than cranking out the miles on foot.

Eck Run 2

But during the summer – in a manner I am all too familiar with – she experienced a moment of madness and managed to convince a group of us to sign up for an obstacle race in the autumn (more on this to follow soon). This was a 5 km distance involving various hazards and obstacles, so she decided it would probably be a good idea to get a few miles under the belt before hand: As I have said many times before, nothing like entering a race to add a bit of an incentive to training!

We decided to do an early morning run on one of my regular routes near her family’s house in Yorkshire, winding around the streets,  up and down cul-de-sacs and generally exploring the area. The rule is basically, keep to the side and every time you come to a turning you have to take it, and as you can see from the GPS tracker below we covered most of the perimeter of the estate over a 6 km distance.

Eck Run 3Eckington Run AngeEck Run 1

I had been nervous before that she would hate it, but actually it went down really well. I was really impressed with the fact we kept going with no stopping, and it was a great confidence booster ahead of the obstacle race. Next stop – Ironman for two!?!

A lo Cubano

After some spectacular (if a tad chilly at times) training in Cornwall this year, I was fortunate enough to do my next few sessions somewhere slightly more exotic: the fabulous island of Cuba.

Cuba Sea

Now bearing in mind a decent summer over here sees temperatures in the 20’s (I nearly died in the Avenger last year when we raced in the low 30’s) I had to take a bit of care here as the country was going through a heatwave, so even the locals were having a tough time as we pushed 40 degrees on a daily basis. Clearly the temptation was to sit on the beach in the sun, piña colada in one hand and the most exercise being a dip in sea, but well… this is the Chile Challenge so I felt obliged to make the most of the different training opportunities on offer. So just for you guys:

Cuba Scuba Russian Frigate

First up had to be to try out the local diving. Regular readers may be familiar with my usual exploits – braving freezing temperatures in a disused quarry in the Midlands, hoping for more than a few mitres of visibility and maybe even a couple of fish (if you are lucky!) – this was a bit different! Over the week I managed to get in 5 different dives, the highlight being the brilliant Patrol Boat 383 (thank you Google for the picture above): a Russian Frigate at 27 metres depth, with decent viz, tonnes of marine life, colourful coral and a resident puffer fish in the hold. Other great dives included seeing a nurse shark (yes a shark!) and a much-tougher-than-expected drift dive around a reef which made me glad of all those open water swims. It turns out all that hard work in the ice cold quarries was worth it though, as I could really appreciate the environment more, and was really pleased with my buoyancy skills along the way, particularly alongside most of my lightweight companions who without exception were horrified at the idea of submersing themselves in anything below 25 degrees!

Cuba Tennis 1Cuba Tennis 2

Despite belonging to a gym with tennis courts and spending anything from 5 to 10 hours per week there, I never actually get around to playing the old bat-n-ball, but we decided the hotel’s courts were too tempting and had to try them out. Given the temperature it was a bit mission-impossible, and we had to get there for 7.30 am (easier said than done after a night on the piñas!) to avoid the searing heat, and even then we only managed 45 minutes before nearly passing out. Although it had been years since last picking up a racquet, it turned out the body does not forget, and as you will see from the above pictures, Federer and Sabatini need to watch their steps!

Cuba Hotel TrainingCuba Hotel Training 2

Our plans switched to hitting the air-conditioned gym next door, where having been out of the country for over a week, I had to get my fix of RPM tracks on the bike. I don’t think the other users were used to riders standing up on the pedals and simulating hill climbs, then suddenly dropping into sprints, but I am sure they were just jealous! The beach views were also somewhat improved, although it will take a lot to beat the one from our rooftop gym in Havana a few days earlier (top left).


Our final fitness activity was none other than dancing. And not just one type, but salsa, Zumba, cha cha cha and who knows what else. Being a typical uncoordinated guy I was a bit terrified at the idea of this sort of thing, but it turned out having all those Les Mills classes in the last 12 months I actually had some moves! Now I am saying I was Michael Jackson, but I was able to keep to time pretty well, and compared to the handful of other blokes who joined a mainly female gang across the half dozen or so classes, I feel I can hold my head up. That said, there was a clear difference between the Europeans there and the local guys, who all seemed to have plenty of natural rhythm and put us to shame with their hip shaking routines… maybe a bit more practice in the next few months and I will be able to tear it up when I visit again next year!

Cornish Training Part II – Running Buddy

Earlier this year I wrote about a great run I did down in Newquay, making my way along the spectacular cliff tops between the town centre and Watergate Bay. Like most of my runs it was an early morning job, making the most of the peaceful surroundings and fantastic sunrise. Also, like all of my others, I did it on my own.

When I was younger I used to do loads of team sports: pretty much every weekend was taken up playing rugby, football, hockey, cricket and the like, and I always loved that team spirit that helps bring out the best in you. But as I got older, I gravitated towards more solo sports like swimming and running, with the pinnacle of these being long distance triathlons, were even those where there are loads of other competitors, you will always find yourself alone at some point, often for long periods of time. None more so for me than the Avenger, where I must have ridden for the best part of an hour towards the end of the bike leg without seeing a soul!

Although I have recently got into exercise class training such as the Les Mills stuff, most if not all of my triathlon training has always been done on my own, whether outdoor swimming (there is nothing better than having the pool to ones self!) or getting my head down on the bike or run, with headphones to drown out any distractions.

Newquay St Ives

But on visiting Cornwall for the second time this year, further along the coast in St Ives, I had a different offer: my brother-in-law asked if I wanted to go for a run with him. Now Matt is what I see as a ‘proper’ runner, who has completed a number of marathons over the years, and is definitely a lot faster than me.  This immediately made me slightly nervous that I would be left behind, despite his protestations that he was out of practice having spent the past two years up at all hours of the night with his baby daughter!

Carbis Bay Run

On a side note, this is one of the main reasons I like triathlon, as I am fully aware I am not the world’s best swimmer, rider or runner, and there are plenty of specialists around who could kick me ass around the track or pool in their sleep; however, there are fewer folk who like doing do all three in a row which tends to help me out in races. But I digress…

We agreed to go for an early run the next morning, for me a relatively early 8am (I was on holiday!) although Matt had of course been up for hours (not so much out of choice!). Like my last run down here, our route of choice was the South West Coastal Path, although we were about 30 miles further west than before.

St Ives Run

Fortunately it was just as beautiful in this part of the world, and we had a fantastic run, following the train line along the estuary, taking in lovely views of Lelant & Carbis Bay beaches, eventually reaching St Ives itself. It was what trail runners would probably call a ‘technical’ course – an off-road route designed more for hiking than running, with some overgrown parts and a lot of steps – but we were more than up to the added challenge.

Carbis Bay Run 4

One reason I had always been a bit nervous about running with someone else is now being able to run at my own pace (and not listening to music, but actually it was nice to just have the natural sounds in the background) but I soon realised that was fine. At points Matt did start to disappear into the distance, but he was a great running buddy, having done this a lot more than I, and at points casually slowed down without making a fuss to let me catch up, without making a big deal of it. To be fair I held my own pretty well, and I realised it was actually less me slowing down Matt as him motivating me to run faster and longer!

Matt & Jim 3

We reached the halfway point of St Ives station in good shape, so rather than retrace out steps back we decided on an alternate route back along the main road, which turned out to be a bit of a killer. After our tricky off-road path into town, this was a pavement job, but with a good 2 km of steady climbing on the way out-of-town. Again it was good to see we were both up to it – although it was not easy – and it did come with the old benefit that what goes up must come down, meaning the final part of our run was a nice gentle slope back to our starting point.

All in all we managed just over 11 km in not much more than an hour, which was a fantastic time for me, and it was here I realised how beneficial it is to be able to run with someone. Yes, you might feel bad about making them stop occasionally, but in the long-term you with both spur each other on and end up achieving more as a team than you would individually. Certainly food for thought for future training sessions, and thanks again Matt!