Weeks 50 & 51.5 – I’m sick y’all

I had started to write this potentially penultimate blog a week or so ago. I wanted to look back at the progress I’ve made, the speed at which I can potentially move at and arrive at a really smug predicted finishing time for myself. Alongside this I was going to present the predicted times, canvassed surreptitiously over the last week, for the other participants and use the opportunity to be mean about them. The update was roughly half-written when I was struck down by a massively karmic, and potentially lethal, dose of man-flu. I always get ill towards the end of the school year – the kids seem riddled with more germs than ever and my resistance is weakened on account of being really bloody tired – but this year’s attack of the sniffles is the worst I’ve had in a long time. For the past four days, I’ve been full of snot, coughing and wheezing and generally feeling rubbish.

I fly out to Frankfurt tomorrow and my cold doesn’t seem to be going anywhere which, when you think about it, is a tiny bit shit. In my original blog, I looked at my pace in training sessions, translated those over into the race and then added a bit on for fatigue/the inevitable toilet stop/transition and arrived at a potential 10hr48 (1hr10swim, 5hr30bike, 4hr run). For a fat man on his first attempt, that’s fast. It would have required me to be on top form and for my bike to have no mechanical problems, but it was possible. Now, I’m not so sure – still feeling like crap and with no energy, or motivation to do anything, I think going under 11 hours is too much to ask. I’m still going to race, and I’m fit enough to finish under the 15hour cut off (if only to avoid having to return all of the sponsorship cash – only £100 to go if you’re interested www.justgiving.com/fatdanironman, thank you to everyone who’s donated so far), but aside from that I’m not sure I can predict a time as I have no idea how my body is going to react. Not the most interesting thing I’ve ever written, but there you go.

As for the others, if I’m not predicting for myself, then it would be remiss of me to offer my opinions on them. I don’t think it would be fair for me to pencil Ben in for his 9.58, Darryl for 10.45, Todd for his 9.45 or Wayne for his 9.57. So I won’t.

It must also be pointed out that I’m not the only one feeling like this. I flew home from the Nam with Wayne and, last I heard, he was even more beset with summer cold than me. He’s also taking it less philosophically so, in an effort to cheer him up, I’m going to share the feedback I’ve had from one particular colleague about the upcoming event:

Need to some help for next week’s blog, any chance you can give me your answers to these.


describe him in one word: unhinged

how would you describe his attitude towards training: sporadic, problematic and unconventional

strongest/weakest discipline: strongest = run; weakest = total lack of discipline when it comes to red wine…and breakfast time…

predicted finishing time: 9:56



describe him in one word: cyborg-like

how would you describe his attitude towards training: robotic

strongest/weakest discipline: strongest = totally void of emotion; weakest = totally devoid of emotion

predicted finishing time: 9:51



describe him in one word: opinionated

how would you describe his attitude towards training: whatever Ben’s back wheel is doing

strongest/weakest discipline: strongest = sledging whilst drinking; weakest = not drinking

predicted finishing time: 10:44


I refuse to say who it was that could actually be bothered to respond to my email, but I think you’ll agree that Damo has pretty much nailed them.

That’s it. Off to bed, airport in the morning.

Training totals:

Weeks 50 and 51 have been so haphazard and full of sickness that I refuse to log anything I’ve done. Apart from three hours of swimming. And about 5 hours on the bike. I’ll have those.


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Weeks 48 & 49 – Time is winding down

*** This is a short and, essentially, quite boring update. Feel free to skip it and donate money instead http://www.justgiving.com/fatdanironman ***

I began my year of blogging by highlighting the sheer amount of work needed to drag myself from the aftermath of my brother’s stag do last summer, to the start line at Frankfurt. The ‘48 hours of Jagermeister fuelled idiocy’ was a killer and it left me in quite a state (though not as bad as two of my brothers, both of whom ended up in hospital.). I wrote at the time that, as 2012’s competitors were flying round the Frankfurt course, I was taking stock of the chaos around me – I surveyed the mess I was in…My head was in pieces, my body ached and the hotel room was in a state.

It’s only because I value the neat synchronicity of everything ending where it started, and definitely NOT because I thought it’d be a good idea, that the above quote could, hotel room aside, easily be applied to the feeling I had yesterday when I awoke after 11 hours of celebrating the next phase of my training plan. That wasn’t the only reason for my long overdue yet brief return to the world of fun, but it was certainly a driving factor. And about time too.
The plan has finally ticked over into ‘taper’ and the last of the big hours are behind me. Not that I’ve done everything I’m meant to, the past two weeks of 19 & 20 hours respectively proved beyond me, but I’ve always hit my key sessions – the last one of these being the 150km ride and half hour run on Saturday morning. To come through this period of training injury free and feeling relatively good is a major achievement for me – and to mark this auspicious occasion, I went to the pub at 3pm and got home 11 hours later. It’s now Monday afternoon and I still feel terrible.

Hangover aside, I think that I’m in reasonably good shape – I can swim, bike and run as well as I’ve ever been able to and I feel mildly upbeat about the race. I’m also looking forward to getting it done and having some semblance of a life again. The next 3 weeks have a more enjoyable look about them – rides are down to 4 hours, runs top out at 2 hours, the swimming (that I’ve not done for a week) drops in intensity. It means that I’ve had time to turn my attention to other aspects of the race – ordering stuff online, getting the bike serviced, scraping sponsorship together. It also means that I’ve been giving more thought to how best pick on my friends through this blog. More on that next week, but as a sweetener, I’ll share this picture that came my way via an anonymous source. It’s loosely based on a marketing idea for the school that Wayne came up with during one of his frequent descents into madness – all of this is real – pictures of the staff partaking in various athletic activities, with the tagline featured in the picture.

Wayne - marketing genius.

Wayne – marketing genius.

It’s hard to know where to start with this, but I’ll give it a go. Quite why Wayne felt that, while new parents were weighing up which international school to send their children to, a poster displaying the questionable talents of a bunch of rank amateurs would be the tipping point that sent them our way is a mystery. More troubling is Wayne’s bizarre attempt to raise his own profile via the school’s marketing department. We all know how his self-esteem has taken a battering of late – his daughter has recently moved reading book levels and he’s been relegated to third in the list of the most intelligent people in his house – but this smacks of previously unseen levels of desperation. Still, at least he doesn’t look stupid in his uniform.

Training Totals:
Week 48:
Swim – Plan 3 hrs Actual 2hrs
Bike – Plan 9hrs15 Actual 8hrs
Run – Plan 6hrs45 Actual 5hrs

Week 49:
Swim – Plan 3hrs Actual 0 hrs (sore ear again…)
Bike – Plan 10hrs Actual 9hrs
Run – Plan 7hrs Actual 5hrs30

Sponsorship Update
Two weeks in and I’m up to 59% – just short of 600quid raised – which is a good effort so far. Charlie reckons I’d have raised a lot more if I’d made more of an effort to be popular, but meh… If you’ve not sponsored me yet, please do: http://www.justgiving.com/fatdanironman. If you have been kind enough to donate money, then massive thank yous are in order – it’s genuinely appreciated.

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Weeks 46 and 47 – shake your money maker

Publishing this blog was, from a personal point of view, a brave decision to take. Not because training for an Ironman is a particularly courageous thing to do, or because sharing your highs and lows with the whole of the internet requires a level of self-belief in the journey that you have undertaken. No, the reason why I see this whole blogging adventure as a bold undertaking is down to the fact that almost to a man (and woman) my friends are, essentially, a pack of utter bastards. I don’t know what it says about me, but as far as I can tell, almost every lasting friendship that I have made over the last 34 years on this planet has been with people who all fit the same description – barely functioning social reprobates, with a unique ability to hone in on perceived personal weaknesses and a fine line in merciless piss taking.

87 bags of crisps.

Ross – no money for charity, but lots for crisps.

Writing about myself for a whole year, leaving myself open for unlimited amounts of abuse from any one of these misfits seemed like a gamble. Luckily, it seems to have paid off. Responses have been fairly positive and I even got a nod of approval from my mate’s brother, Ross. Previous winner of an athletic achievement award for winning his weight in Finnish crisps, Ross is a sarcastic sod and for him to describe my blog as ‘not bad’ was as good a review as I was going to get. However, he went on to mention that, no matter how ‘not bad’ the fatdan files were, he was never going to sponsor me should I ever get round to asking for cash. I was slightly taken aback – to presume that chronicling my year of fun was a prelude to asking for sponsorship highlighted a very cynical outlook on life. Shame on you Ross. However, 11 months later, it turns out he was right. I want your cash.

Being relatively new to this sponsorship game (I genuinely don’t recall ever having done a sponsored anything before) I must admit to being unsure how to go about it. Essentially, I want to use my self-indulgent 2.4mile swim, 112mile bike ride, and full marathon to try and raise some money for a very worthy cause. I’m not sure of the exact justification for asking for money, but I figure that if I can get around the Frankfurt course a) without dying and b) in under 12 hours, then I think that you should give me some. Makes sense to me.

The charity

The charity

The charity I’m attempting to raise money for is the excellent Parkinson’s UK (http://www.parkinsons.org.uk/). It’s a charity that offers tremendous support to the thousands of people who have the disease in the UK. Not many people know a lot about Parkinson’s disease beyond Ali’s appearance with the Atlanta Olympic flame, but in a nutshell, it causes nerve cells in the brain to die. This leads to people developing a range of symptoms including tremors and a slowness of movement. Accompanying this is a number of day to day issues such as pain, depression and tiredness. Parkinson’s is a disease that is degenerative, it gets worse over time and there is no known cure. It affects one in every 500 people, including my wonderful stepmum and two other very close family friends.

The charity exists to fund research into a cure for the disease, to offer a support network for those who have it, and to fight an on-going campaign to ensure that people living with Parkinson’s are treated fairly. I think they are brilliant and deserve all the support they can get, which is where you come in. To donate, visit my justgiving page – http://www.justgiving.com/fatdanironman – and let your bank account pour forth. I set myself the target of raising 1,000 pounds in little over four weeks. This wildly optimistic amount is based on the fact that this blog gets around 100 hits per new post. If every one of those hits contributes a tenner (though I’ll happily accept more), then that’s a grand raised. Easy. Over to you…http://www.justgiving.com/fatdanironman. That’s http://www.justgiving.com/fatdanironman in case you missed it.

Training totals:

Week 46

Swim – Plan 3 hours      Actual 3 hours

Bike – Plan 8hrs30         Actual 9hrs

Run – Plan 6hrs 30        Actual 6hrs

Week 47  

Swim – Plan 3 hours      Actual 2 hours

Bike – Plan 9hrs30         Actual 8hrs

Run – Plan 6hrs30         Actual 5hrs (including a ridiculous 2 and half hour effort on the gym treadmill. Stupid.)

Fatdan award for athletic endevour – week ending 2nd June 2013

I was tempted to give this one to Damo for his twin achievements of swimming 16 lengths of freestyle without stopping and also winning the league with his netball team. However, as netball is a girls sport and Damo is a boy, then I’m unable to recognise it as a sporting success. The award goes instead to the lovely George (and her imaginatively named husband George). George has managed to stoically overcome 9 months of increasing girth and temporary diabetes to safely deliver baby Arlo into the world. Good job the Georges.

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Weeks 43 to 45 – I won’t back down

Fatdan’s back is back. Hooray. After an injury and work enforced lay off, I now feel confident enough to claim that I’m fixed and training properly again. Which is good because for the best part of the last three weeks I’ve been a royal pain in the arse. It wasn’t intentional, but it turns out that being unable to move and facing the prospect of watching the past ten months hard work disappear down the deep drain of despair turned me into a sulky, child. I’ve been moping around the house and have generally hated everything. Life couldn’t have possibly gotten any worse. Ever.

In the end, it turns out I missed a grand total of 2 days training, my weekly totals hitting 12 hours 30 hours instead of 16. Not being one for massive overreaction, I quietly dropped my petulant child act in the hope that no-one noticed and set about training with a renewed determination. It was a determination that was to last about 70km into that weekend’s long ride. It was at this stage, just shy of halfway, that Ben callously upped the pace and my bottom lip reappeared. Now, everyone knows Ben is a heartless, calculating bastard but the sheer malevolence required to put the hammer down when it was clear that I was struggling and Wayne’s broken clown bike was on the verge of giving up the ghost was something else. At least that’s how I viewed it at the time. It had absolutely nothing to do with my post-injury rustiness or the fact that Ben is in fine form this year (and indeed looking good for his 9.41 (self) predicted finishing time).

I completed the ride feeling a million miles from being ‘ironman fit’ and set about renewing my renewed determination. In fact, so renewed was my determination, that I promptly had a week off, choosing to help coach the school’s sports teams in competition in the Philippines rather than run and bike around Saigon. For anyone that’s not been responsible for a group of primary children on a residential, these trips are about as far removed from a holiday as it’s possible to be. Dealing with lost passports, improperly completed immigration cards, minor medical emergencies, homesickness and bizarre dietary requirements really takes it out of you. Luckily, the children were a magnificent bunch whose innate maturity meant that I could devote time and effort into assisting Wayne with all of the above issues. Opportunities for training were understandably limited, though we managed a couple of runs around our small corner of Manila (including getting lost near a shanty town and a very quick dash through an underpass so intimidating that it was being patrolled by its own policeman).

Arriving back home on the Saturday evening, we did what any right thinking people would do having survived an exhausting week and severely lacking sleep. We met up at school at 8am the next morning to run a half-ironman.

Completing the 1.9km swim, 90km bike, 21km run requires a lot of effort in an organised competition when you are surrounded by like-minded athletes. To do it on your own around the streets where you live, out of choice is, quite frankly, bloody stupid. The ridiculousness of the situation was best summed up by Damo who happened to drive past us while we were out finishing the run leg. Upon seeing us crawl past in tri-suits, the curly haired Australian lothario merely pointed and audibly laughed. It was the timely boost to my self-esteem and motivation that I needed – I found the final leg a real struggle (at one point making all the actions of an adult male running but without actually moving anywhere, apart from the bit when I tripped over a dodgy patch of pavement and went sprawling in front of a table full of boozing taxi drivers) and was pretty much done for – thanks for that Damo.

Once again, I found myself feeling like this race was going to be beyond me and set about re-renewing my recently renewed determination. Finally, something gave – this week has been a genuinely good one on the training front. 5am starts and two sessions a day all week, topped off with my first ever 180km ride (at a 32kmph average, followed by a 45min run, followed by some celebratory afternoon beers and non-stop eating). It’s the first time since embarking on my year of absurdity that I’ve felt like I might actually finish the race and, as a result, am feeling rather chipper. As previously stated, hooray.

Training totals:

Week 43
Swim – plan: 3hrs          actual: 2hrs
Bike – plan: 7hrs30         actual: 5hrs30
Run – plan: 5hrs             actual: 5rs

Week 44
Swim – plan: 1hr30 plus half-ironman race          actual:  half-ironman race
Bike –    plan: 2hrs plus half-ironman race            actual:  half-ironman race
Run –    plan: 2hrs30 plus half-ironman race        actual: 1hr30 plus half-ironman race

Week 45
Swim – plan: 3hrs          actual: 2hrs
Bike – plan: 8hrs           actual: 8hrs 30
Run – plan: 6 hrs           actual: 4hrs

Fatdanironman award for (tolerating) athletic endeavour – week ending 19th May:

The lovely, and patient, Hayley. A long overdue tip of the hat to the fiancée for putting up with my colossal mood swings over the past couple of weeks with something approaching good grace (can this count as your birthday present?).

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Weeks 40 – 42 don’t let me be misunderstood

My friend, Charlie, marathon runner (retired) and professional hedonist (practising) routinely points out to me that the amount of training and change in lifestyle the Ironman involves has turned me into a ‘boring twat’. Where we used to go out drinking until 5am, I’m now getting up at that time for a spot of light training and half nine at night is now bed time rather than the signal for a switch to rum and coke. It’s reached a point where he’s threatened to de-friend me which, given he’s one of the handful of people I’ve bothered to regularly speak to in this city, leaves me facing somewhat of a friendship crisis.

Fortunately, I have a collection of ready-made replacements waiting to step up fill the sizeable Charlie shaped hole in my social life. The number of hours spent preparing for this race and the mind numbing nature of the routines you have to get into means that assembling a decent bunch of like-minded idiots is vital to keeping things on track. Over the past few months, I’ve spent an awful lot of time in the company of these misfits and, despite their deep-rooted character flaws, have even grown fond of them.

It’s why this update is probably one of the most important I’ve ever written. With training now sitting at a minimum of 14 hours a week, I’m concerned that the strain, both mental and physical, is starting to take its toll on the well being of my chums and I wanted to  let them know that support is there for them if they need it. Let’s consider the evidence:

Ben - not anaphylactic, just a big head.

Ben – not anaphylactic, just a big head.

Ben, a man so wedded to science and mathematics that he views all human emotion as a weakness, has started to become unhinged, ranting and raving at the slightest provocation. Most recently he lost the plot while out on a training ride through the villages of Cat Lai and began shouting and swearing at bemused locals. Admittedly, one of them had knocked him off his bike in a slow motion collision moments before but there was no need for such histrionics. Imagine his fury, then, when twenty minutes later two youths came past on a motorbike, slowed down to keep pace with us and began launching handfuls of peanuts at him. Now Ben does have an expansive forehead and the actions of these harmless scamps is understandable – to them he would have resembled a mobile Mount Rushmore and, when faced with the gigantic head of George Washington bearing down at you, throwing peanuts is the only possible reaction. Ben saw it differently and, foaming at the mouth set off in pursuit of the nut slingers. Needless to say he didn’t catch them but his actions that day mean that we all now view him in a different light and think twice before sharing a joke with him or writing about him on the Internet.

Another man tiptoeing on the edge of reason is Darryl. Normally so focused and erudite, the pressures of training have reduced him to a bumbling incoherent wreck. A brief text conversation the other night highlighted how precarious his situation has become. Now admittedly, it was his birthday and he may have been slightly lubricated, but surely nothing other than a complete mental breakdown can excuse the following (not having a decent  phone, I’m unable to show the texts as they happened but I promise you that all of these are genuine. Apart from my responses, I’ve had to rely on memory for those…):

Happy birthday Darryl, been training? Just finished running, am shattered, need a rest.

I’m I
With you. Only lying about and drinking beer 4 me in future.

I blame Wayne, this was his idea.

Yea! C*** and turner iS as bad

I think you’re being harsh, Ben works hard deserves the sporting rewards he gets. You don’t like him because he’ll be your boss next year.

And a c***

Don’t use such profanities, they don’t suit a man of your wisdom and experience.

and. Look at me

I’m not sure what you mean, can you clarify?

The other 2 tri
Did 100
Hours on first

Darryl, you’re scaring me. Do you need help, I’ll call someone.

Have no idea what I meant to say. Most important think I meant to say.

The words of a sane and rational man? I’m not convinced and genuinely fear for him. Two of my Frankfurt friends are falling apart at the seams and I don’t know what to do about it. Luckily Wayne is fine, it would be hard for him to descend further into the realms of the ridiculous, but I fear the malaise may be catching. Phil is not considered an extrovert – his public outbursts are usually limited to an awful shirt and raffish cravat – but the other day he stepped so far outside the boundaries of what’s considered socially acceptable that it’s worth mentioning. Our gym has an outdoor area, overlooking the river, with some weights and a few spinning bikes. These machines are generally considered the territory of oiled up losers who like to preen themselves in public. Anonymous sources tell me that Phil was spotted on these the other day, hammering away in nothing more than pair of tight red swim shorts. My informant claims it resembled a scene from a bootleg Greek version of Baywatch and has left them with difficulties keeping food down. Hideous.

10 weeks to go and things are looking ominous in Saigon.

Stupid training things I’ve done this week – #9 in an occasional series

Ignoring the warning signs. Despite my friends’ problems, I’m absolutely bloody marvellous. They say that regular training releases endorphins and produces a natural high and that must be what I’m experiencing. Either that or the multitude of pills that I’ve been given for my bad back (ignored and trained on for a week, completely buggered climbing the bridge yesterday) have hit home. On doctor’s orders, I’m on four days of rest and am throwing pills down my neck like they’re skittles (Really. I’ve been prescribed enough to open my own branch of Boots). As a result, I’m higher than a kite and not sulking about being in constant pain or my inability to train.

Fatdanironman award for athletic endeavour – week ending 28th April 2013

The Grandad - a worthy winner

Happy Birthday Grandad!

Yet again Wayne misses out – any other week, he’d have picked up the award for his good grace in dealing with FOUR punctures in one ride (a four hour spin turned into a 6 hour marathon under the tropical sun) but sadly for him this week’s honour goes to a rather unique person. War hero (his Burma Star and tales of flying with the RAF in Asia make my Ironman quest seem rather pathetic), role model and all round nice chap, my Grandad turns 90 soon and picks up this special present for being able to drink his own weight in Dark and Stormies (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dark_’N’_Stormy).




Training Totals

Week 40
Swim: plan – 3hrs    actual – 1hr
Bike: plan – 5hrs    actual – 5hrs
Run: plan – 4hrs    actual – 5hrs
Week 41

Swim: plan – 3hours   actual – 2 hours,
Bike: plan – 7hours   actual – 7 hours
Run: plan – 5hours   actual – 5hours 30

Week 42
Swim: plan – 3hrs   actual – 2hrs
Bike: plan – 7hrs30   actual – 4hrs but I’ve got a spazzy back so it’s forgiveable…
Run: plan – 5hr30   actual – 3hr30 see above…

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Weeks 36 to 39 – House of Fun

When I first decided to write this blog, I promised myself that if I didn’t have anything interesting to write about, then I wouldn’t bother writing anything at all. It’s largely a testament to how dull my life is that my last post was over a month ago. In that time, in the last 32 days, a grand total of 3 relatively interesting things have happened to me. Brilliant. What’s more, as I am able to recall this adrenaline-filled trio of events as if they were yesterday, I can, if so minded, write about them in such mind-numbing detail as to leave the reader feeling that they are actually living the life of a tubby, de-motivated Ironman competitor.

However, and with a certain amount of good fortune for my ever-dwindling audience, I am not so minded and will only spend a few brief paragraphs glossing over what I consider to be March’s highlights (technically a bit of April’s too, but I’m in no mood to be pedantic).

Highlight number one was an opportunistic ride with the Vietnamese national cycle team (women’s). We happened across these Lycra-clad lovelies (incredibly patronising, mildly misogynistic AND wildly inaccurate but I like the alliteration) at the halfway point of a recent 160km training jaunt along highway 13. After a brief slow down for drinks, they came gliding past us at around 36 kmph which meant we were able to jump on the end of their train and enjoy the twin benefits of drafting a large group and having motorcycle outriders close traffic junctions for us.

With cycling etiquette in mind, we were careful not to intrude on their carefully planned training ride and trundled along quite happily for 15km or so. It was at this point something went wrong (though he denies it, I’m convinced it’s because of something Darryl said, thought or did to them.) and the team stretched out into single file before lifting the pace to about a 40kmph average. Ten minutes later and I was done for, my one chance of being scouted and making as a female pro disappearing over the hills in a cloud of turbo-charged oestrogen. Still, it was a good experience, and one made even better by the fact Wayne missed it.

The next event is only tenuously linked to training in that it excuses my recent sheer bloody laziness. My training plan is starting to

Thresher shark in the Philippines. One of only 3 exciting things to happen to me of late.

Thresher shark spotting in the Philippines. A good reason not to train.

get fairly serious – the last 4 weeks have been down as 13 or 14 hour weekers. My actual training has been decidedly less serious – the last 4 weeks have been 5 hours, 13 hours, 11 hours and 6 hours respectively. Part of this has been down to the need to rest following the glorious events of Madagui (see last post), but most has been down to being idle. The past 8 days has been spent in the Philippines, drinking beer and diving with very rare thresher sharks (which makes number two in my list of minor marvellous moments), as opposed to running and biking. I’m now very much rested, and also very much off the pace. Over the same period Ben, Wayne, Darryl and Wayne’s brother Guy have been flogging their guts out in the blazing Vietnamese sunshine meaning that I’m now having to play catch up. 12 weeks to go, no more shortcuts, especially with the bloody running.

The final exciting instalment has nothing to do with Ironman, but I’m delighted to have finally succeeded in ‘taming my inner twat’ (thanks Wayne) during a job interview and will be taking the fatdan (potential) ironman road show to Bangkok from August. I figure Thailand is as good a place as any to enjoy a year off. Hooray.

Fatdanironman award for athletic endeavour – week ending whenever the hell it was.

The Richardson brothers square up ahead of their Frankfurt showdown. Note a youthful, and vengeful, Darryl keeping watch in the background.

The Richardson brothers square up ahead of their Frankfurt showdown. Note a youthful, and vengeful, Darryl keeping watch in the background.

Take a bow, Guy Richardson. This is Wayne’s younger brother. Not content with being more intelligent and generally more successful in life, Guy also has a faster UK Ironman time than his slothful sibling. Admittedly, it was about 5 years and 25kgs ago, but it still counts. Guy is also down to race Frankfurt and has, with two and half months to go, finally kick-started his training. The way he tackled the Phu My bridge the other week was a sight to behold and those in the know are already talking about him as a serious contender for a place on the age group (85+) podium….

Training totals (doesn’t take a genius to work out where I’m missing sessions…)

Week 36 (Post jungle race rest week)
Swim:   Plan – 3hrs        Actual – 1hr
Bike:     Plan – 5hr45      Actual –  3hrs
Run:     Plan –  4hr15      Actual – 1hr

Week 37

Swim:   Plan – 3hrs        Actual – 3hrs
Bike:     Plan – 6hrs30    Actual – 8hrs
Run:     Plan – 4hrs30    Actual – 2hrs

Week 38
Swim:   Plan – 3hrs        Actual – 2hrs
Bike:     Plan – 5hr30      Actual –  6hrs
Run:     Plan – 4hr30      Actual –  3hrs

Week 39
Swim:   Plan – 3hrs        Actual – 0hrs (Not that it counts for anything, but I did see chuffing cool sharks during my 7 hours of  diving. That’s sort of like swimming…).

Bike:     Plan – 6hr30      Actual – 6hrs
Run:     Plan – 4hr30      Actual – 0hrs

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Weeks 34 and 35 – Run through the jungle

‘Welcome to the jungle,’ wrote the 20th Century’s version of Descartes, ‘we’ve got fun and games.’ To which, I’m tempted to respond with ‘No, Axel, no you haven’t’.  What you meant to say was ‘Welcome to the jungle, we’ve got 2 hours of running in the pitch black with a head torch clamped to your forehead, followed by a Sisyphean (Wayne – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sisyphus) push uphill with your mountain bike, a treacherous daybreak trail ride, a run around a cocoa plantation, more trail riding and a 2km ‘swim’ down a river. With a curly-haired, formerly obese Australian as a team mate.’

For anyone who’s never heard of it, the Madagui Trophy (http://www.vietadventure.vn/UserFiles/File/Madagui_Flyer_W150xH210mm.jpg ) is, quite simply, a magnificent event to do. Now in its sixth year, the race is variously described as ‘a chance to explore the Vietnamese jungle, feel the wilderness’ (official spiel); ‘a chance to run about in the jungle, in the dark, with your mates, how cool is that?’ (anyone who’s finished it and recovered); and ‘f**king sh*t’ (anyone who’s in the middle of it). Organised by the generally reliable, though occasionally haphazard, expat French company Vietadventure (http://www.vietadventure.vn/home), it should genuinely feature high on the to-do list of anyone with a sense of adventure and access to Vietnam. Despite generally hating everything, even I’m being nice about it, that’s how good it is.

I should, at this point, mention that my unnatural positivity stems from the sheer brilliance of the race and has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that I finished second this year and am fairly chuffed about it (Though I did finish second, did I mention that?) In fact, the only reason I’m going to spend the next hour or so writing about my second place finish is because I think that you should stick it in you 2014 diary now so you don’t miss out. Still not convinced? Take a look at this video from 2012, put together by the chap who came in third this year: http://vimeo.com/38764047 . You can thank me in a year’s time.

The race comes in three formats – Adventure (2-4 hours), Extreme (4-6 hours), and Ultra (7-12 hours). Feeling brave, and having no real excuse not to after months of Ironman training, myself and Damo signed up for the Ultra. Given that last year’s winners, Ben and Wayne, finished in 6 hours something, whereas we limped over the Extreme finish line in 5 hours 45, we figured that we had no chance of getting on the podium and set ourselves the sole aim of not embarrassing ourselves – not an easy thing to do when you’re running about in public wearing a vest and bike helmet.

Our race began at the ungodly time of 2.30am (breakfast at 1am – the first time I’ve ever eaten at that time without either being on an aeroplane or smashed.) with a dash to the mountain bikes and a short ride to the start of the first run. The next two hours consisted of dragging ourselves uphill along a loosely identifiable, single file jungle path, all the while using the light from our head torches to watch for loose rocks, roots and absurdly sharp bamboo, as well as trying to spot the red and white ribbons that act as trail markers – miss these at your peril: this is where the chasing pack lost touch with the leaders after blindly following a hapless idiot, possible called Dan, down a dead end, while another team ended up doing this section of the race twice following a minor navigational error.

This brief period of woodland fun and frolics was followed by the start of the ‘bike’ leg. I use inverted commas because the word ‘bike’ generally implies a large degree of riding. Not true. This one required competitors to push, ride and carry their bikes over, around and through a succession of dense forest, large boulders, and potholed trails, all the while plodding steadily upwards. For many, this is the hardest part of the race, with many people paying the price for an over enthusiastic start. At least that’s how I felt as my hamstrings started to cramp at precisely the same time I managed to turn my ankle on a sneaky pebble. It was about 40 minutes into this that we hit the first checkpoint to be greeted with the happy news that, despite being around 30 minutes behind the leaders, we were, somehow, sat in second place. Given that this had never happened to me before, we were a little unsure as how to react. Reasoning that it wouldn’t last, we decided to hold on for as long as possible and make whoever was going to overtake us work bloody hard for it.

Another 30 mins of climbing saw the route begin to even out and we were able to, finally, clamber on to our bikes for some poorly lit

the winners get their 15 minutes - 'dark and hard'.

the winners get their 15 minutes – ‘dark and hard’.

riding. Daybreak arrived as we hit the start of the descents – the previous 90 minutes of torture cancelled out in twenty mins of overly cautious down hills. A few kilometres of trails, two river crossings and a magnificent stretch of sealed road later we hit the start of the second run, still in silver medal position. It was here we had our only bit of contact with the race leaders – as we were refilling with the help of the race volunteers, Ben and Wayne came careering out of the cocoa plantation to be surprised by the news that we were the ones trying to chase them down. Though they deny it, I suspect that it was at this point the pair of them relaxed and began to work on their winner’s interviews for Vietnamese TV (and they certainly needed work – ‘it was dark, really dark. And hard. It was hard and dark.’ Brilliant boys, well done.)

Myself and Damian, on the other hand, didn’t have the luxury of being pursued by rank amateurs and had to keep pushing if we were to stand a chance of coming home as first losers. After an energy gel fuelled twenty minutes in the plantation – one climb and an annoying ten minute splash down the middle of a stream being the highlights – we were back on the bikes and I started to go a little bit mental. I’d realised that we weren’t that far from the finish line and started to lift the pace. It’s testament to Damo’s good nature and easy temperament that he didn’t punch me in the face at any point over the next hour as I constantly screamed at him to keep up, hurry up, keep pedalling and get a move on. And move he did – down some sadistically planned paths, through a handful of villages

Crossing the line, still incredibly clinging to second spot.

Crossing the line, still incredibly clinging to second spot.

and across yet another river with bikes on the shoulder (complete with photographer refusing to lend a hand as we struggled up muddy banks with bikes on our shoulders – cheers mate), we finally arrived at the bike drop off and the beginning of the end – an easy float down river.

Rehydrating with lager. 8.05am.

Rehydrating with lager. 8.05am.

At least it would have been easy if the water level was high – as it transpired, a 2km wade over slippery rocks through thigh high water while clad in an ill-fitting life jacket, is just what the body doesn’t need after 5 hours of exercise. Still, even with my partner’s abject lack of swimming skills, we survived and hit the final half km of running to the line. We finished at 7.58 am – 5hours and 28 mins after starting a race that was meant to last a minimum of 7 hours – and had a beer in our hands by 8.05. Sat with Ben and Wayne (winners, again, in 5hours 8mins), we continued to rehydrate with Heineken as we watched everyone else finish and then spent the rest of the day trying not to sit on ants nests and fending off debilitating headaches. Magic, it’s what Sundays were made for.

Fatdanironman award for athletic endeavour – week ending 10/03/2013

A plethora of choices this week – Dan (different one, better haircut) and John finished the Ultra in just over 6 hours; Abi and Lieva managed the Extreme before the cut off; Ash started the race despite suffering from food poisoning; Sophie rescued Ash from his misery, brought him back in an ambulance, then returned to complete the course alone – but it’s hard to look beyond the achievements of my friends and Madagui champions, Ben and Wayne. To successfully defend your title, overcoming an unimaginable amount of pain in the process (‘I need to stop Ben. It hurts.’) and do it in little over 5 hours is some going. The award should, by rights, be theirs. However, and unfortunately for them, my mate’s brother has recently won 87 bags of crisps in a competition on Finnish radio and I count that as a bigger achievement. Well done Ross.

Stupid racing things I’ve done this week -#8 in an occasional series

Wearing a vest for a race through the jungle. My shoulders, forearms and back are scratched to buggery by a variety of unidentified plants (though I don’t think my slow motion fall off the bike helped much). A long sleeved top would have helped. A long sleeved top like the ones given away with my race pack. The ones most other racers wore. One of those would have been great.

Training totals:

Week 34 –

Swim: Plan – 3 hours      Actual – 3 hours

Bike: Plan – 5hours15     Actual – 7 hours

Run: Plan – 3hours15      Actual – 2hours

Week 35 –

Swim: Plan – 3 hours      Actual – 2 hours

Bike: Plan -5hours15       Actual – 1 hour 30

Run: Plan – 3hours45      Actual – 1 hour 30

Race – 5 hours 28 mins

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