Post 3/3: Storming Paris by bike

When I arrived back in Calais I went to a nearby hostel to wash and changed with the aim of getting straight onto the bike. Unfortunately the run and swim had clearly taken plenty out of me. In the shower I made the decision to have a few hours kip but an hour in my right foot was in a lot of pain. Some of my blisters had hardened while some remained soft and it had swollen up and gone quite hot. There were two points of pain, the little toe and just under the big toe and any pressure was agony. We tried with tweezers to puncture holes but no fluid came out. It wasn’t yet an infection but we were worried it was heading that way. In addition there was a really annoying and very loud buzzing noise caused by the hostel which they spent ages to fix. So sleep was not great. I decided to max out my time in transition to get as much recovery as possible and we tied an ice pack onto my foot to help the inflammation, using Elliot’s porcs tie (not to be washed). Inventive stuff. Dan woke me up at 4am, one hour before my official cut of time finished which created a bit of a mad rush. I got changed while the support team packed the car in a bit of a panic, while we also put my foot into a scolding (it was in fact closer to luke warm but felt like agony) bucket of water and salt to see if that would help. It didn’t really but the ice had done its job. So with 4 minutes to spare I was out of the hostel got to the start point and started cycling. Manic.

Bike start in the dark
Bike start in the dark

I have to confess the first few minutes of the bike was a bit emotional because all my training had geared towards getting to this point. As far as training was concerned, once I was there I was an Enduroman. Unfortunately I hadn’t planned on how unpleasant those first 30 miles would be. I hadn’t eaten any proper solid food for breakfast (I still had my usual feed mix) or stretched so the idea was to stop at McDonald’s which was ~25 miles away. Then we’d take a break and restock. All I really wanted was some nuggets. So in the dawn light I cycled painfully. My feet, legs, ass and shoulders all in quite a bit of pain and the first few hours went by painfully slowly.

Generally exercising in the dark is a bit unpleasant
Generally exercising in the dark is a bit unpleasant

When we arrived at McDonald’s we found it was closed. I was distraught. Genuinely. Rosie tried to cheer me up with kettle chips and flap jacks. I wanted some nuggets. I was quite close to throwing my toys out but Elliot reminded me there was nothing I could do and that even kfc was closed. Dan informed us that there was a patisserie serving hot food which would definitely be open and that was 30 miles away. We set off again, and I removed the Garmin so all I had was a pulse monitor. I didn’t know the time nor did I want to. Over the next 30 miles something dawned on me. It was a very nice day and the pain had started to go away. Things were still stiff and sore but on the whole it could have been a lot worse I reasoned.

Pain easing...
Pain easing…

When we arrived at the patisserie it was shut. Upsetting but by this point the sun was up and I was feeling good. After a bit of stretching Dan informed me of some of the other Enduroman times of which Jo Rodda’s was one. I worked out that it was probably unachievable but for the next few hours it kept me ticking on until Abbeville which was at ~85 mile mark. The support team left me to get mcnuggets while I continued to cycle. I managed to cycle for 15 miles until they caught up with me at which point I snatched the mcnuggets off dad and polished off 30. Probably 10 too many hit who cares!

yummy mcnuggets
yummy mcnuggets

A few minutes later I felt a little ill, a combination of my body trying to digest the food and general exhaustion so I had 20 minutes lie down on the side of the road.

Important to bed down
Important to bed down
Support Bike checks
Support Bike checks

After a few bike checks, we quickly got going again and made incredibly good progress to Paris. The closer we get the faster I felt I could go and the Kinetic-One bike was absolutely purring along at 20 mph on the flats. I almost fell off going down one of the hills coming out of the aero position. I steadied myself and slowed down, after which a speed gun clocked me at 45kph. That would have hurt. But the aerobars were fantastic in giving me more speed on the downhills which was mainly used as momentum to get up the other side. I was going quicker doing no pedalling then I was sitting upright and peddling and this meant I could really maximise efficiency. Unfortunately I couldn’t do too much sustained pedalling in the aero position as my shoulder and back didn’t quite get me there. After a number of hours of actually quite pleasant cycling we arrived to the outskirts of Paris. The first thing to note was that I managed to become set my first Enduroman record of being the first athlete to get a puncture. Luckily road butler Elliot was to hand to fix it while I had a lie down.

Road Butler put to good work
Road Butler put to good work

One thing that the Enduroman official has to be aware of is the fact that I’m cycling on very little sleep on quite a lot of exercise in quite a busy area. So when I was instructed to take the 4th exit of a roundabout and I indicated to go the wrong way down a motorway he was rightly concerned. My punishment: a 10 min rest and some ice cream.

Punishment for my doziness
Punishment for my doziness

Apart from that the route in was fairly easy – traffic was light and I pushed hard to keep behind the car made difficult by dad going through most of them on yellow…

Making friends in Paris
Making friends in Paris

By the time we were entering central Paris the realisation I was actually going to do it was slowly dawning on me. The only issue was cycling on the cobbles which hurt all areas of my body, not least my right foot. I cycled up the champs elysee with Elliot and at the end of the road got congratulated by Dan for becoming Enduroman #23. Hell yeah.

Enduroman #23
Enduroman #23

There really are so many things that I learnt over the whole trip but the number one thing is to make sure you have good support. It’s cheesy to say but it really is a team effort because that personal interaction can help if your mind is wandering to a dark place (doubts). I had fantastic support and it was fantastic to share the finishing moments with them.

The challenge itself is incredibly well crafted. It tests you in so many different ways and each discipline had its difficulties. The swim is definitely the hardest part, but it’s also the part I was probably best prepared for. In Channel swimming, you have to deal with elements that are completely out of your control and it can make you feel utterly helpless. But pace yourself, stick to the task at hand at you’ll eventually get there. I’m absolutely honoured to take part in this event and to take my number. I’m confident that more people will beat my time (77 hrs 17 mins) and there’ll be someone younger, but that really doesn’t bother me at all because no one will be able to take away #23.

Solo finish
Solo finish
Porcs at Arc
Elliot was absolutely cracking support. AND Porcs ties ended up coming in handy in my moment of need.
Family support was incredible!
Family support was incredible!
And of course it's also about the fantastic cause
And of course it’s also about the fantastic cause
Mum to greet me at the finish
Mum to greet me at the finish
Finished and shattered
Finished and shattered
Shitty Zombies! Ferry home entertainment
Shitty Zombies!
Ferry home entertainment

Post 2/3: The Zoolander of Channel Swimming

After a few minutes to enjoy the run finish we got into the car to the Folkestone Grand Burstin to get stuck into preparing for the swim. Despite being far earlier than check in, we were allowed two rooms to put our stuff in and also to get breakfast. I started feeling really horrendous at this point. The run clearly took a lot more out of me than the football run back in February. The hills, lack of decent run track, probably slight under cooking of endurance run training in May-July and the extra 15 miles all contributing.

My feet took the brunt of the run
My feet took the brunt of the run

I went to sleep while my support team were busy at work preparing me for my swim. One of these jobs was to frantically search for a physio to work on my battered legs and back that evening. The other was to refill my giant water jugs with protein and maltodextrin for the swim. Dan suggested mixing double concentrated so that you can mix half with hot water. I hadn’t trained on this and wasn’t actually informed until I woke up. Safe to say i trusted Dan on these matters.

Elliot & Hamish busy using toilet water for my feed
Elliot & Hamish busy using toilet water for my feed

After a meal which consisted of 3 main courses I got all my swim gear together and we headed to Dover to find a fantastic leaving reception from friends family and faversham rugby club (did you lads get anything done that weekend?).

Farewell from Big Sutes
Farewell from Big Sutes
All kitted up and ready to go
All kitted up and ready to go
Support from Dover to see me off
Support from Dover to see me off

After meeting the pilots and waving off Dan, Hamish and I set off out Dover marina to the start line which was somewhere in between Folkestone and Dover. The journey took about 20 mins and it was odd looking at all the lights out on the sea. I tried not to look at the lights from Calais. I was told to get into the water and swim to shore which was pretty much the only pitch black area of the shore. Actually standing up on the stones was quite difficult as I couldn’t stand or see. Also my feet were in an absolute state from the run and I felt the whole skin on my right little toe come off on the stones. Good start. I put my hand in the air and the horn went to signal the start of the swim.

BRICKING IT
BRICKING IT

The horn sounded and I waded in and swam back alongside the boat, which I’d swim to the left of at all times. I’d told Hamish and Dan that the important thing was to get me to the light as I knew how much better if feel swimming in daylight. I’d done a couple of night swims which I hadn’t really enjoyed but actually this felt a lot better. I found the spotlight from the boat shone quite annoying and I kept getting told off by Dan for swimming too far away from the boat. Other than that I felt incredibly comfortable as it was warm, conditions were fairly calm and my shoulders felt good. I was enjoying myself.

Swimming just before sunrise
Swimming just before sunrise

The first little surprise was close to dawn when I spotted my first jellyfish through the light shining on the boat. Throughout the day I spotted a couple of hundred jellyfish (I counted 6 different species) and this became something that helped keep my mind busy. The sun coming up on the channel will be one of the most iconic moments of my life. Apart from the odd lowly supertanker in the background it was pure open water swimming – just a calm sea of nothingness on the left and the support boat on the right. The feeds were every 45 minutes and the warm water was pleasant to drink. I had got the concentration right as didn’t piss too much and didn’t get dehydration.

Sunrise on the channel
Sunrise on the channel

After 8 hours of swimming it dawned on me that I was still remarkably fresh and happy despite it being my longest swim. I also realised I’d gone through the first shipping lane as the tankers were moving towards Calais. After around 10hours I was still feeling good and for the first time looked up to see where France was. I reckoned I was only about 2 hours away so started pushing on. I started to wonder why people found the channel so difficult! Grave mistake.

Something amazing about swimming in a vast sea of nothingess
Something amazing about swimming in a vast sea of nothingess

From training I knew I could push my speed above “cruise control swimming” for about 4-6 hours when I was fresh. I felt fresh and given I spotted the French coast I reckoned I’d be there in 2 so thought it was a safe bet. Another 2 hours of swimming later and France looked no closer. In fact it actually looked a bit further away. I knew that this could happen so it didn’t phase me too much as I put it down as an optical illusion. It wasn’t.

Don't look at the land! Still got hours to go
Don’t look at the land! Still got hours to go

After ~1 hour I was told by Dan to do a 30 minute burst which was what I was waiting for. This was it! 45 mins passed and I went for my next feed and I asked whether I should be swimming faster. Dan told me to just keep going. I’d spent a bit of time working out how long id been swimming for and worked out that the tide had just changed which meant I was going in the same direction as the current off cap Gris Nez. I also released that I must have missed the cap and was drifting up the coast towards Calais. To cap things off I felt my left tricep/rotator cuff go which stopped my left arm catching the water properly. I tried to work on using my right as much as possible but seeds of doubt started to really hit me. What if my arms weren’t strong enough to get me through the current? Do I need to swim quickly? You start to think the worlds against you and get frustrated with your support. I was getting annoyed that they weren’t telling me how fast I needed to be swimming or where I was. A few little shouts underwater helped this a lot and I kept reminding myself that all I needed to do was keep swimming.

I was trying to turn to shore!
I was going straight the whole time!

I also drew upon unpleasant experiences to remind myself that I’d rather be here then tied and bagged up in “the hole” (wait for October) and I was still thankful that I didn’t have to be on my feet in the dark like the run. Dan gave me the word to do another 30 minute push but told me to keep some back which didn’t bode particularly well given the last push came to nothing but I was grateful for some direction. I was in considerable pain by this point but every stroke was one less stroke until the finish. After about half an hour the pilots told me to relax and that they were going to park the boat in the shallow water. I had lost all faith so I ignored this – I still had the mindset that the world was against me. When James parked the boat up and told me to swim to the beach I asked how hard I needed to swim which got a quizzical look and a reply of “as fast as you like”. I still didn’t think I was there so I continued to push but I saw people on the beach looking out at me. I thought this could be the channels final trick but then my hand hit a slimy rock slab. I knew I had made it.

Coming out the water like a sea beast
Coming out the water like a sea beast

I think I spent a few seconds face down in the water holding the rock but decided that it probably looked as though I’d died so thought it best to get out of the water. All of my training over the past 16 months had come to this point. Main problem was that I couldn’t stand up because of the slimy rock. I had to climb up it until I got to sand and as I walked out there were a few people clapping so I stuck my hand up in the air to indicate I’d finished and had a little chat with them. After a minute or two I climbed back into the sea and hopped along the sea floor all the way back to the boat (well I wasn’t going to swim). The next 90 minutes was spent on the top of the boat smashing down a lot of solid food (crisps/flapjacks) and looking at my phone to see all the comments of support and frustration at people who’s Sunday’s were occupied by my tracker. That made me chuckle somewhat.

Back on the boat!
Back on the boat!

congrats from dad

Triumphantly arriving back in Calais
Triumphantly arriving back in Calais

Once we arrived in Calais I said farewell to my boat butler and joined my road support team with the plan of having a quick shower and change in the hostel then get cracking straight away on the bike.

I can tell you now that the swim was the toughest part of the challenge. It’s the one part of the event that’s not just about being able to push yourself through in pain, the Channel really messes with your head and throws in all sorts of doubts. The trick is to ignore everything as much as possible and just take yourself into a little place where you feel comfortable. It’s a long old haul, but have faith that you will get there.

Swimming towards supertankers
Swimming towards supertankers
Swimming reach
Swimming reach
swimming close up
swimming close up
wading back to the boat
wading back to the boat

Arch to Arc run: Off with a stroll

Hello everyone!

Firstly sincere apologies for the absolutely huge delay in getting these posts out. It has taken me about one weeks worth of commuting to write these down so I’m going to release them all at once, and this one will start them off with the 87 mile run from Marble Arch to Dover!

Cracking Brollies!

I was told the night before that the swim on midnight Saturday/Sunday looked very good which was essentially the all-clear for a 2pm start on Friday. That morning I had a nice big cooked breakfast, just as I would for any other long run, while Elliot, Rosie and Dad met up at my flat with the car, ready to get everything packed. After a bit (lot) of shopping Elliot and I worked on mixing the run feeds while Rosie and Dad worked on getting everything in the car. Already logistical issues were surfacing as we worked out we couldn’t open the boot with the bikes on the rack. No worries, Elliot & Rosie’s problem – not mine ;-).

It's delicious, honest!
It’s delicious, honest!
Getting the final touches sorted at Malwood road
Getting the final touches sorted at Malwood road

Just to recap, the support team (below) was Dad & Rosie who shared driving/media duties, Elliot as “Road Butler”, Hamish as “Boat Butler”, Dan Earthquake as the Enduroman official, Mum as “sweeper” (met us and helped in each transition) and Alex as “Boris Bike Returner”.

Team Arch to Arc
Team Arch to Arc

As we arrived at 1.15pm at Marble Arch for a 2pm start I was definitely starting to get very excited. This was aided by a fantastic crowd to come and see me off which was great. The diary farmers protest added the necessary countryside touch. While the countdown was exciting, the walk away from the crowds was definitely not. Although I was a bit worried that I would get held up by the first set of lights and have to embarrassingly wait while the crowd watched on. Luckily I made the green man. Get in – what a start!

Have to have a family photo of course
Have to have a family photo of course

The plan was to walk the first 10.5 miles with Dan and Grantley cycling alongside me and we would meet the car after. Apart from almost forgetting my water bottle it was absolutely bang on target as it took 2.5 hours – a little quicker than the 4 mph I’d hoped. Walking quickly was crucial to my whole run strategy as I didn’t really want to run more than 45 miles in total and knocking off an easy 10 miles at the start does wonders for motivation. When we met up in the car it was time to say goodbye to Alex who had the very important task of returning the Boris bike to a docking station, otherwise Dan Earthquake would “find him”. A few stretches and some work with the physio ball and I set off running.

The finish of the walk... all going well so far
The finish of the walk… all going well so far

The first bit was a long uphill so probably not the best place to start but nevertheless I made good progress through miles 10-30. The feeding system working well, having a whey protein / maltodextrin shake (750 ml water) every 45 mins. Solid food included a lot of kettle chips, flap jacks and various treats. In terms of ultra-distance running I find that as long as your stomach can take it shove it in! Got a lot of support from Kev (you’ll see on C4 with me in October) driving up and down while I was walking/running the 25-30 mile part. His daughter looked suitably embarrassed.

Kev to help cheer me up in the rain
Kev to help cheer me up in the rain

At this point I started feeling a bit sore and the rain was really getting strong. I asked for a base layer but had packed one that was too small and got given that. Few minutes later changed out of it but not before it created a nasty rub underneath my arm. Next 20 miles were challenging but where I could I tried to run and whenever I couldn’t I made sure I was walking quickly. The route was tougher than I anticipated as it was hilly and there wasn’t a good running path most the way, with a lot of shrubbery in the way. Safe to say the A20 needs a new gardener – it’s not a pretty route. The rain also ensured my feet stayed fairly wet. Maidstone at 40 miles was a bit fiddly so I walked through with Dan. After that my feet were starting to feel very sore and I wondered if the relatively slow progress was going to not leave me enough recovery for the swim. Luckily the only though process going through my head to finish the run as pain free and quickly as possible. A battered sausage and chips helped cheer me up and generally spirits were high despite the rain and sore feet.

Perfect running conditions...??
Perfect running conditions…??

The original plan was to have a break at 60 miles which seemed like an age away but I got a nice surprise from Faversham rugby club around the 50 mile mark. I was pretty much dead on my feet at this point (fair enough as it was 1am; I had been on them for 11 hours) so at Charing we decided to bed down.

Good opportunity to take some weight off my feet. I did not smell good.
Good opportunity to take some weight off my feet. I did not smell good.

The support crew set my camping mat, sleeping bag and survival blanket next to a bench at around 1am for 90 mins kip. Dan slept on the bench to make sure no foxes pissed on me. I’m not sure if whether he learnt that from experience or this was a precaution. After getting up I had a feed straight away, changed my socks and shoes and felt better and continued to walked to the 24hrs Tesco near Ashford. I was still very sore but I remembered that this was the same on the Football Club Run and it completely disappeared when the sun came up. Went to the toilet at the Tesco’s around 4.30am but couldn’t squeeze out much to be honest. This is when Rosie & Elliot revealed that we’d lost my magic physio ball. I was very upset but they made a good save as they’d bought tennis balls as a replacement which worked fine. At that point it looks as though we were on for a 21-2 hr run which was a little longer than I anticipated but it was roughly to plan.

Quick change of shoes after 90 min kip
Quick change of shoes after 90 min kip

Next 30 miles went surprisingly quickly despite my feet being in a lot of pain. Just before we came close to Folkestone I was still thinking I was around 20 miles away so when Dan informed me that it was close to 10 I had a huge boost. It was also nice to get greeted by Enduroman friend Mike Smith who had a banner with all of the Enduroman names written on the back. #23 was currently unnamed and in my head I just said “that’s mine”. The hill climb at Capel Le Ferne (Folkestone) is a bit of a bitch and infamous on this run but I reminded myself how bad climbing Jacobs ladder was (Penny Fan) – and it was a doddle compared to that. I also got a great view of the sea which helped remind me that the real challenge was yet to come.

Determined to get #23
Determined to get #23
See it away like a good Porc
See it away like a good Porc

After the hill we held a little drinking ritual with my feed knowing that it was just 5 miles downhill to get to the marina. Unfortunately the road had absolutely no pavement and no real hard shoulder so it was very slow progress and quite frustrating. Luckily I knew I was well ahead of time and my fast walk continued to pay dividends. A nice surprise and cheering from family (Jonny, Georgina & boys) throughout the last mile was a great boost and finding out that I got to the end under the 19 hours was also a much needed bonus as it gave me an extra hour more than planned to recover. This included walking almost half the distance and a 90 minute kip. Celebration? Smashing down two large packets of haribo in 2 mins. Onto T1.

Run: DONE. Bosh
Run: DONE. Bosh

What I took away, and anyone doing endurance running should take away, is that you’ll naturally go through periods which hurt and are unpleasant. The trick is to understand that your body has a remarkable way of shutting this out and provided you continue to put one foot in front of the other you’ll make it. Also walking quickly really helps knock off the miles.

Important to have good media skills at these sorts of events otherwise you'll get slated in the Press
Important to have good media skills at these sorts of events otherwise you’ll get slated in the Press
It's important to keep stretching (nothing dodgy happening here promise)
It’s important to keep stretching (nothing dodgy happening here promise)
Eat what you like to keep the spirits high. Food of choice here was a battered sausage
Eat what you like to keep the spirits high. Food of choice here was a battered sausage and chips

The final night! Mentally prepped

State of play: I could be starting the Enduroman Arch to Arc at 2pm tomorrow. I’ve been training near enough for 16 months with this challenge in mind. Safe to say my life has revolved around it. But I won’t know if I’ll be starting at 2pm tomorrow until tomorrow morning. Although my training has been fairly relaxed at times (in terms of hours done) it’s been rigorously planned and (mostly) in my own control. So to cede control to the weather is incredibly frustrating but something I am forced to deal with. I’m responding by focusing on what I can control; namely rest, eating and planning (in that order).

As a quick summary we currently have bad weather which makes the channel un-swimmable until midnight Sat/Sun. There’s probably going to be bad weather in the future which makes swimming Monday not likely at all. So if this bad weather is worse than expected, blows on for longer than expected OR the future bad weather comes in earlier than expected my window could get screwed. It’s phenomenally difficult to forecast 12 hours in advance, let alone enough time for me to run down there and recover! Hence all the uncertainty. But it’s an important part of the charm of the Arch to Arc and why it’s so difficult!

What has kept me going is the support. I have been completely blown out of the water with all the messages, donations and shares. Please please continue to spread the word – there’s nothing better when I hear the message coming back full circle. So far I’m above £15,000 and that doesn’t include gift aid (some offline donations I need to put in) but there’s still more work to be done!

To be honest it’s probably only just hit me today that I might actually start tomorrow and I’m starting to get my head into it. Rudimental helps and there’s some cracking stuff they’re releasing at the moment which is doing wonders for my mood, I don’t really need added motivation! Once I’m out on the road there’ll be no music though – it just helps my visualisation when I’m preparing. I still need to pack though I’ll leave that until tomorrow morning.

The main thing is that you can all still be with me! My support team will be relaying messages of support (facebook, twitter, texts and even emails) throughout the challenge.

To follow me log into the Enduroman website at www.enduroman.com which has all the information on my Arch to Arc challenge you need at the centre of the page, including my live tracker which will update every ten minutes I think.

If you want to see the routes check out my blog post on logistics and there are two Strava links for the run and bike routes.

The facebook event which has all the send off details are here: https://www.facebook.com/events/1442338539429077/

Don’t worry about making it down if you can’t make it but it’s probably the best way to check my start time as Rosie is controlling it and she’s much more on the ball than I am!

And of course the most important link is the link to Macmillan donations page! http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/FIronA2A

This will of course be my final blog before I get stuck into it, provided there’s no delay (which there could easily be) so have an awesome weekend everyone and get truly stuck into what you enjoy.

3.5 days to go?? Details and support information

Firstly I have to say thanks to everyone for your donations and support. I’ve been completely overwhelmed and my phone has not stopped buzzing. However great or small I really do appreciate it and I will get round to thanking you all after the challenge. But beforehand there’s still work to be done! This includes logistics planning (plans A&B done), check list of equipment (done), actually going out and getting some equipment (to be done) and generally liaising with Enduroman and the support team so everyone’s kept up to date.

Unfortunately the start date and time still can’t be finalised but if the weather continues to hold up then I’ll be looking for a Wednesday evening start from Marble Arch. My sister and new found press officer Rosie and cousin Lucy (I believe) have created an event on Facebook which will keep everyone updated on the start logistics so I can focus on getting everything ready on my side. But don’t worry even if you are not on that I will make sure I send an email the moment I know when I’ll start. There will be an official live tracker so you’ll be able to track and support me from the comfort of your own home. Also my support team will have full control of my phones and social media so will be able to relay all messages to me. I promise you they’ll make the world of difference when I’m struggling.

In terms of physically supporting me I’ve been asked when/where it’s appropriate to see me. Due to the timing nature and logistics of the event it’s pretty much impossible to work out where I’ll be at any time and even if there was I don’t know whether I’ll want to stop or not. As a result seeing me off at Marble Arch (if you can) is definitely the best way to get involved. But I’d stress the best way to support is through messaging and social media.

But if you’re in the South East part of Kent and can quickly get to Dover another opportunity might be to greet me in Dover. But please please please use the tracker to judge it and don’t make any decisions until it looks like I’m ok at Ashford. I’ll be taking a kip at some point on the run so don’t make any presumptions on how fast I’m running in the first 40 miles or so.

Only after the end of the run will we know exactly when I start the swim and I’ll make that public knowledge as well. As a broad assumption this is likely to be around 13-14 hours after I complete the run, but this can change. It’s also likely to be in the dead of the night (think 3am) so there really is no worry if you can’t see me off at Shakespeare beach!

For those who genuinely fancy meeting me in Paris (hats off for the commitment but I wouldn’t recommend it), make sure you book flexible tickets or book after I make it across the other side. There is so much uncertainty with a channel swim and I will take absolutely nothing for granted. To be honest if you’re in France and fancy cycling then feel free to check the tracker and meet me somewhere en route as it should be more relaxed. However we will not be able to coordinate with you as we’ll be focussed on completing the task. I also should stress that I might be taking a little sleep during the ride and I will not take someone waking me up particularly well.

Anyway, I’m so touched by all the support so far. I’m still fit and healthy and feel quite well relaxed (had a nice round of golf yesterday). Perhaps a bit too much, but I know that’s the sign of a successful taper. There’ll be another message coming round on Monday/Tuesday which will direct you to Ladbrokes website (special bets section) where you’ll be able to bet on my Channel swim (all profits Ladbrokes take will go to Macmillan but by all means keep your winnings and buy me a pint in the wood), and also the link to the live tracker!

Current (provisional) odds:

8/1 Under 12h

4/1  12-14h

2/1  14-16h

2/1  16-18h

3/1  Over 18h

So until then chat soon and keep the support up! You’re all bloody incredible

Less than 2 weeks to go: It’s all about logistics!

2 weeks away from the big challenge and I’ve done my last long sessions, which included a 21 mile run with Grantley and a quick 5km swim the next day in Tooting lido. I have a very slightly tight calf but other than that I’m feeling good so it’s all about resting as much as possible. I’ll do one more 10 mile run next week and a couple of half hour swim sessions. It just helps things ticking over and I’ll be doing a lot of physio work to make sure my muscles are in the best possible shape.

Vitally important. Start hoarding!
Vitally important. Start hoarding!

Now I’m really starting to get stuck into the logistics. Last Monday the whole team met together for the first & only time to run through the challenge. The Arch to Arc isn’t just about being physically fit and mentally determined, it’s really about getting your shit together and being organised. It seems as though so many people have become unstuck in the past. For example how are you going to get your nutrition to you in the sea, or how much sleep does your support crew need to make sure they’re able to navigate and drive on the wrong side of the road in France. Where will we sleep and what’s our plan when we get to France? Simple things become very difficult when you’re fatigued and I’m not going to be in much state to give out orders! Ideally all I should need to think about at the time is move my legs, turn my arms then spin my feet. It won’t ever be that simple but the closer you can get there the more able we’ll be able to deal with the inevitable unknowns that throw themselves at us.

Important discussions!
Important discussions!

This is why I’m so pleased to have such a great team supporting me. I’ve decided to have two drivers: Dad and Rosie, and Rosie will also be updating the World Wide Web on my progress so you’ll all be able to track me (there’s an Enduroman tracker as well which you’ll all be able to see). Elliot will be my primary support, exactly like he did on Fred’s Footy Run in February which went so smoothly. Thankfully he won’t have to cycle in freezing cold temperatures in deepest darkest East London. Then there is Hamish who will be my primary boat support. Hamish has the experience of sailing from New Zealand to the UK (his mum and dad are currently making their way back – via Brazil I believe!) so will not get sea sick. I’m thrilled they could both do it and are taking time away from work to help me. They’re both incredibly practical, have known me for years and won’t be afraid to give me a bit of stick if it’s required (or even not)! In addition I’ll have an Enduroman official whose main job is to get me there as safely and securely as possible. They’ll also be invaluable experience for my support team. No room in the car for mum unfortunately but she’ll be sweeping around and doing publicity.

Deep in thought. or is Dad just about to sneeze?
Deep in thought. or is Dad just about to sneeze?

The one big uncertainty is the start date and time. We can’t do too much to narrow it down as it completely depends on the weather in the channel but we can work out a rough plan and adjust accordingly. Right now, we could start anytime from Tuesday 11th to Tuesday 18th, but I’ll hopefully be able to give you all a day or two’s notice and we’re likely to be starting in the afternoon/evening so it would be great to see as many of your there as possible! Hopefully it will be closer to the 11th as I’m keen to get stuck into it.

I’ve attached the (rough?) routes below so you’ll be able to see if I pass close by. Feel free to pop out to support but bear in mind unless we pre-arrange it I won’t be stopping for anyone as it’s really important to keep stops down to a minimum. I hear I’ll be ambushed by an ultra stalker so that’ll keep me on my toes!

Run route: https://www.strava.com/routes/2921356

Bike Route: https://www.strava.com/routes/2921400

The donations are coming in thick and fast and it’s hard to get back to you all so apologies if you have donated and I haven’t thanked you yet – it is coming! I really really do appreciate it and it is all going to a wonderful cause close to my heart. So I would really appreciate all of you guys spreading the story as we’re trying to increase exposure. Rosie has done a fantastic job of getting press releases together and sending them out to local papers. I’ve put some of these up so it would be great if you send them round your offices, friends and especially media contacts! The more publicity the better. Now is not the time to be Facebook shy or pretend you don’t really go on it when we all know you spend plenty of time of it ;). Spread the word even if you haven’t spoken to me for years (or even if you didn’t like me). I’ll do one final post next week when I’ve got more information but for the time being just bear with me. Almost there!

Donations: http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/FIronA2A

Last sea swim. DONE*

* Well apart from The Channel

The last training session was on my tod so there are no photos from it. However as it was my last sea training swim I thought I’d scatter some pics, some you’ve seen, some you haven’t, dedicated to some of the people who’ve helped me get me up to speed on sea swimming; the most daunting aspect of the Arch to Arc. So before I get into some of the detail of my long swims I thought I’d do a bit of self reflecting.

My first thought coming out of the sea on Sunday was thank fuck for that. At the end of the day I’m pleased with where I’ve got to. Almost a year ago I completed my first 6hr swim so it might seem as though I’ve done that much but believe me when I say there is no way in hell I could have managed the swim last Sunday (see below). All in all I’ve swam in the sea last spring, summer, throughout winter in 6 deg C (wetsuit and no wetsuit), 2 x 8hr swims, 5 x 6hr swims, 2 x 5hr swims and a ridiculous number of sea swims 4hrs and below. There have also been countless swims in tooting Lido (up to 10km) at varying degrees of temperature (low being 2 deg C) and twice weekly (at least) swim sprint sessions in the gym pool. It’s been bloody exhausting, and that’s just one discipline.

I’ve not done this on my own and I’ve been surrounded by fantastic people who have helped me along the way. Dan Earthquake (of Coldwater Culture fame) has invested so much time butlering, has got me sea worthy in no time at all and quite frankly toughened me up! Also Eddie (#1) who organised a fantastic Lanzerote swim in January and also for providing ample support throughout the whole Enduroman training journey, up to the swim last weekend! And lastly, but definitely not least, Jayde who’s spent around 2 sessions a week behind the scenes working through sprint sets in the pool before work. There’s no way I could have got my swim speed and power up early this year without it (when I actually woke up ;-)). Still got a few of those pool sets to do over the next few weeks to keep everything ticking over. All in all I’m in a place where I can give the channel a real good crack, and that’s all I could ask for when I signed up for this just over a year ago.

Winter sea swimming. Bunch of nutters. And proud.
No way I’d have done winter sea swimming without Dan. Bunch of nutters. And proud.

The last few weeks have had ups and downs. Following the successful 8hr swim three weeks ago, my next two training “blocks” were meant to be a 10hr swim then a long run followed by a 6hr swim the following day.

The 10hr sea swim was organised and piloted by Eddie “#1” no less and Grantley drove me after work on a Friday to start swimming in Weymouth at 10.30pm. The idea was to swim through the night alongside the boat in Weymouth. There were plenty of large jellyfish in the water but it was very flat and quite warm so after the first hour I was optimistic. One of the issues was which made it hard to settle into a rhythm was that we were different speeds so I had to turn and swim back to the boat every few minutes. However the major issue started after hour two as I noticed I was pissing a lot. I’d instructed Eddie to give me about 500ml of water/protein/maltodextrin combo which is a little less than I would usually have, and I also told him a slightly stronger concentration than usual. In addition I’d also not drunk enough leading up to the swim. Small mistakes but combine it all together and it can break a swim. I started feeling quite cold (dehydration can lead to hypothermia) and by hour 3 I was in a lot of pain experiencing nausea and a splitting headache. At this point there’s very little you can do. I had some extra water to try and buy a bit more time but after a few minutes I had to climb back into the boat. Grantley absolutely bossed it and managed to turn his arms for the full 10! Also thanks to Eddie for setting the whole swim up!

No way I would have had the motivation to make it to swimming, whether Folkestone, lido or even Weymouth without training buddy Grantley!
No way I would have had the motivation to make it to swimming, whether Folkestone, lido or even Weymouth without training buddy Grantley!

Despite all my swimming improvements nutrition is still absolutely vital and will make or break your swim. Need to stay switched on, ensure I’m precise with what I need and that it’s all prepared before the swim!

Happily I can say that my next training block went better. On Saturday I spent 7.5hrs walking/running and covered ~38 miles. Quite slow pace, and it might be more or less on mileage (I don’t wear a fancy watch) but that’s beside the point as I haven’t done a huge volume on my feet and I’ve got valuable information on where my weaknesses are (lower back/calves) which can be worked on in the next few weeks. It’s perhaps a bit close to the event than I’d like but I’m confident I can get there. The other point was to see what it was like to swim the morning after.

The pool was empty because it was 2 deg C. END OF.
The pool was empty because it was 2 deg C. END OF.

I woke up Sunday morning to get the train to Folkestone to crack out 6hrs in the sea. It wouldn’t have been worth doing it in a pool/lake closer by as it’s the nutrition (salt) I was concerned about. I also deliberately gave myself ~5hrs sleep to try to make myself more tired going into the swim. The 6hr swim was actually far tougher than I’d anticipated but only because the conditions were far from ideal with a strong current, plenty of waves and chop.

Eddie Ette: Enduroman #1 and absolute inspiration (he'll hate me saying that haha)
Eddie Ette: Enduroman #1 and absolute inspiration (I’m sure he’ll hate me saying that haha)

The first hour was ok, as the current was turning but from then on the current built up. It was a strong enough current that I’d drift at a slow walking pace if I didn’t swim (1.5-2mph). That’s a bit faster than my cruising pace so I really had to push hard to keep moving forwards, let alone get to the other end of the beach. It took around 25 minutes to do one “length”. This is all fine but even at my most relaxed pace going back I was already at the other side in 5 minutes and I needed to turn quickly – if I rested at the end then I’d just get dragged further down the beach. Every hour boiled down to 4 lengths of the beach involving 45-50 minutes hard swimming, ~10 minutes easy swimming and 5 minutes to feed (no butler so had to get out). With conditions getting worse it made it more difficult to get full strokes in and I reckon my stroke looked something like this!

Choppy Folkestone to cap off a rough sea swimming year!
Choppy Folkestone to cap off a rough sea swimming year! May as well finish on a difficult

I considered packing it in on health and safety grounds but the notion of two “failed” swims going into the channel wasn’t an option I’d consider, even if it meant swimming on the spot against the current for the remaining 3 hours. Luckily my speed didn’t drop off and the current in the final hour dropped off slightly as the tide started to turn again to make those “uphill” swims a bit more manageable.

Members of team Enduroman always on hand to help! (#19 and Lynn Ette)
Members of team Enduroman always on hand to help! (#19 and Lynn Ette)

I’ve got a bit of run/gym work to do over the next few weeks and I’ll also do a long ride or two on the bike but I’ll have a lot more info on the logistics of the challenge and various competitions I’ll be offering for fund raising. As ever spread the word and donate!!

Donate Here!!