The big news this week has to be the announcement of our sponsorship cause for this year’s challenges.  I must say I am very privileged and somewhat surprised to have been accepted as a donor for the #StayStrongForOws campaign by Owen Williams, his family and Cardiff Blues.  I had assumed they would have far bigger names than I competing in these events and raising money to help Owen, but they were genuinely pleased and delighted of my offer of support.  I will be meeting with Helen Davies, the Blues family liaison officer next week to further discuss my plans and hopefully to chat about publicity to gain the maximum exposure and amount of donations for Owen.

Many of you will already know Owen’s story, but others who maybe do not follow rugby in depth will not.  Owen Williams is a Cardiff Blues and Welsh International centre who showed superb talent on the rugby field with maturity ahead of his years.  Owen was representing Cardiff Blues in the World Club 10’s tournament in Singapore last year when he suffered a significant injury to his cervical vertebrae and spinal cord.  Following treatment in Singapore he was transferred to the Rockwood Hospital in Cardiff for further rehabilitation.  I have not yet had the privilege to meet Owen personally, however I have seen him speak on Scrum V (you can watch here) about his recovery and his stoicism and determination are inspirational.  At Paul Turner’s request (as my supporter this year), I was pleased to have the opportunity to offer any support I can to Owen and his family, and I am committed to doing the best I possibly can for him.

The injury suffered by Owen is truly awful for any rugby player and their family.  To suffer in this way playing the game you love and doing your job could be devastating, but to see Owen bouncing back brings a tear to the eye and ensures me plenty of motivation whenever the training gets tough.

In July last year, Cardiff Blues launched the #StayStrongForOws awareness campaign to support Owen in association with the Welsh Rugby Charitable Trust.  Many wristbands have been sold and events undertaken by famous names from Welsh rugby already and I realise these attract much more media attention than my own efforts, however I sincerely hope anyone who can gives a little and most importantly helps me to promote my effort at every challenge I attempt.  I also hope to draw some commercial sponsors who may be able to afford that little bit more….  If I can raise the required amount I will join Cardiff Blues on their cycle to Paris in June, but I simply don’t have enough of my own money left to foot the bill myself!

The link to my Just Giving page will remain on the menu of this blog, or you can click here.  Thanks for reading and sharing.

Training update:
Naturally the bulk of this blog revolves around the story of my sponsorship cause but I shall rattle through my training over the past week for those who are interested (don’t forget you can also follow the Sports Tracker links from the menu for more regular updates!):
Friday 16th Jan:           21.21km run with Mave (1hr 53mins)
Saturday 17th Jan:      1.7km swim (drills) with Bérengère (53mins)
Sunday 18th Jan:         22.08km run with Mave (2hrs)
Monday 19th Jan:       Gym session (Shoulders, Biceps, Triceps, Abs)
Tuesday 20th Jan:       REST DAY!
Wednesday 21st Jan:  1.7km swim (non-stop) (42mins 47secs) & 10km run with Mave (53mins)
Thursday 22nd Jan:    50km cycle ride (2hrs 1min)
Friday 23rd Jan:          25km run with Mave (2hrs 15mins)

Future blogs will go into a little more detail about the training but this one is probably almost long enough!

Diet update:
Finally, a diet update….  Less than 4 weeks to go on the complete elimination diet and we have begun reintroducing foods….
Eggs were first (on Monday) and there was a minimal reaction on my part (slight heartburn and stomach noises), although we haven’t had any more since then!  However yesterday (Thursday) was gluten grains and there a problem was found!  Bloating, and most disturbingly a pounding headache….  Certainly seems to be an issue with gluten then, although bread and cakes will be tried separately but over the longer term I can foresee bulk purchases of gluten free flour in this house!  Next comes dairy, on Sunday….. watch this space…..

The diet has been difficult in avoiding tea, coffee and alcohol with friends, however it is building good habits, helping with weight loss and finding out what causes stomach “issues”, which many people seem to have.  I would certainly suggest it is a worthwhile exercise for anybody to undertake, at least once.

That’s been my week, and again thanks for reading and spreading the word.  Have a good weekend and I’ll be back with another update (and more photos….) soon!

New Year, New You……Me…….

Happy New Year to you all…..

So the New Year has started with a bang. Or at least a shock! After emptying the cupboards and gorging on the leftovers the day before the elimination diet started, there was bound to be a comedown as the withdrawal symptoms took hold. Fortunately the pangs and pains were not too strong and now, a week or so on, we (my wife has kindly decided to diet with me!) are now used to eating hyper-clean. We certainly feel better, have more energy and get up easier in the morning, and to be honest I’m not training badly at all (more of that later), but the strict imposition of the diet can be a little disconcerting when you can’t even share a cuppa with family or friends!

So I promised some pictures this time around, and whilst I haven’t succeeded in snapping my training buddies yet (I will, just as soon as I stop falling off the bike….), here’s a pic of my new “toy”, a Garmin Forerunner 920XT. WP_20150114_003
So far, I’ve found this a brilliant piece of kit which tracks my distance well and gives me great insight into pace, heart rate and cadence. It also works well in the pool, which is a support I have never had up until now. Whilst I am still experiencing problems pairing the speed & cadence sensors on the bike (I’ll get there….) and I don’t use the watch to it’s fullest potential (I’ve decided I don’t really need the pedometer and sleep functions), I can see this becoming an invaluable piece of kit over the coming months.

Of course, the Garmin watch comes with the obligatory Garmin Connect account to keep track of performance, and in turn my training partners have suggested that I should then automatically sync my activities to Strava, so I created a profile there.  I was already on Endomondo too (as Strava doesn’t yet exist for the Windows Phone) so I have profiles all over the World of fitness apps!  I’ll try to add my profile links to the icons at the top of the blog but for now you can keep tabs on me on any or all of these by following these links:

Nutrition and the diet has really become the hot topic of late, and for the first time perhaps WP_20150114_001in my life I am now taking supplements to aid digestion and training.  I’m also taking a protein shake straight after training, which I now know will dramatically improve my recovery, and to be honest it seems to be working!

The protein is Organic, Vegan, Raw, the works!  But to be fair it tastes fine and it seems to do the job!  Also by subscribing through Amazon the price doesn’t seem too high compared to “normal” alternatives.

One thing I have noticed seeking advice and tips and by following fellow “Ironmen” on Twitter, is just how many people seem to be supported in kind, often with nutrition or equipment, even at levels far beneath what I am already achieving.  This strikes me as odd, but what I am more uncertain about is just how they convinced these companies to support them in the first…..I still have this kind of opportunity available to companies of course and I imagine I can still hold out hope as I regard myself as a better prospect than some!  Whoever did take me on would also need to supply these supplements, which are not overly common in the market.  Perhaps that’s the dilemma…?

WP_20150113_001Either way, the diet and new regime seems to be working well, and the weight is dropping off at a fairly rapid rate.  Not only am I now lighter than I was before Christmas, but my weight also started with a “12 stone” for the first time in about 18 years!!  Granted, this was after a run, but even today I am a round 13st, so the time will come very shortly when this is not an unusual occurrence!

In terms of the actual training, well it has been busy.  Already a week into the new year and I am completing half-ironman distances in 2 out of 3 disciplines (in isolation) and training almost every day.  Sunday was the longest ride on the bike so far, 65km in some horrible headwinds, and 3 runs last week totaled 42km (although the last 16km with my friend Mave on the Friday was a complete nightmare with heavy legs the whole way!).  A decent swim session on Saturday amounted to 2km and a complement about my technique from my professional swim coach (my wife :)!) and yesterday’s run of 18km felt so much better than last week.  I still want to check my trainers though and although I went to see the physio before Christmas for gait analysis I have had no formal recommendations about footwear so will probably head to “Run and Become” in Cardiff who have a good reputation for this kind of thing.

Time to do some more work, before heading back to the pool and on to the gym for a chest/back/core session.  Mustn’t forget to pack that protein shake too………

Christmas weak?

It was always going to be hard to stick to full on diets and exercise programmes during Christmastime. After all, they make it awkward by closing the gyms and pools yet keeping the pubs open……

That said, it was a pretty good holiday for me in that I was able to eat and drink in relative moderation, spending some quality time with family and friends and yet retain energy and motivation to train, or at least keep active!

For instance between breaking for Christmas and returning to work today, there were two visits to the swimming pool, one involving my longest distance to date, 3km, a lengthy road cycle with 3hours spent in the saddle in the company of some old friends but new training partners (whom I shall formerly introduce in a later blog!) on New Years Day, a 13km run on New Years Eve plus a couple of gym sessions and a walk up the Sugar Loaf (where we enjoyed a lovely mince pie and cup of tea…!).

For those who are interested, the cycle route was a scenic 40 miles in total, from Abergavenny through Crickhowell and over to Talgarth before returning via Bwlch. No great shakes in terms of speed but at this stage time in the saddle, even on mucky and windy days like this one, is also an important factor in my training as I feel it will help with the mental side of the event too…..

I’ve since raided the bank account to purchase a Garmin watch to accurately track my workouts, and all of the suggested supplements and recovery tools. I simply cannot wait to use the foam roller on my IT band……or maybe I can!!

I’d like to write more about the support team I am amassing since I also have gained a nice looking workout programme from a guy who knows more than a little about functional fitness! I certainly won’t be looking good in the gym buckling under the weight of 4kg dumbbells, but by doing endurance exercises the correct way, this is what will result!

Thanks again for reading and for sharing, I’m off to prepare for a run on this, the first day of the complete elimination diet and sleep hygiene programme! It’s a good job there is nothing else here to eat now that isn’t part of the diet plan…..

I’ll be back soon, when I hope I can also announce the sponsorship cause we’ll be supporting.