Weak but a Good Week for #StayStrongForOws donations

Firstly this week I want to say thank you to each of the twelve donors who have so far contributed to our fundraising efforts.  From a very generous and sizeable donation from my Uncle and Auntie right through to £10 and £20 pledges from training partners and workmates plus several donations from my wife’s colleagues at Mabey Bridge in Chepstow, Paul and I are very thankful that you have helped us up to 6% of our total target for the year, only £1,700 shy of the requirement to join the Cardiff Blues cycle ride.  We are also setting a minimum target of £1,000 before the Paris Marathon, which is now in just 7 weeks!

For those who haven’t donated, please do consider helping out!  If you can only give a little now, please do so, if things change you can always add some more later in the year!
You can donate here…


Our email banner to promote the campaign…

We have had some stationery designed to promote the cause and you will begin to find this appearing at the foot of emails and on social media pages.  We will also be generating some letters and handing these out to ask for business support in donations.  As well as this we are coming up with other ideas such as a prize draw for donations over a certain amount (donations already given, or cumulative amounts will of course count!), so watch for announcements of prizes soon!  Mave has also suggested that sitting on the turbo trainer outside a shop or in a town centre can raise some good money so after I’m back from Paris we will arm ourselves with leaflets, plus banners and buckets from the Blues, and probably have a go at this too!

The past week has been quite difficult for me personally from a training perspective.  Since last Monday when I injured my hamstring I’ve had to try to be more patient and step off the accelerator a little.  Tuesday necessitated a rest day and so I swam on Wednesday, although I picked probably the worst session possible with a pool full of kids playing with balls and splashing about.  My fault for choosing a half-term public swim I suppose!

On Thursday (19th) I tried again, with more success I’m pleased to say!  As usual I was slightly too slow for the fast lane but way too fast for the slow lane, so I persevered with the “quicks”.  In all I managed 3km, and although my 100metre splits are still nothing to get too excited about, they are improving, as is my “SWOLF” (Garmin’s measure of speed and number of strokes combined – see here), and I now take less strokes per length than I used to, saving energy.  Perhaps the injury can help me after all, although progression in swimming was actually programmed for after the marathon….

Thursday was also the day I got to see the physio, Naomi Lang from Indigo Rehab in Llanover, who I had visited nearly 5 years ago after my last car accident (not my fault!!!).  She believed that the sudden increase in cycling – particularly over the hills – followed immediately the next day by a long run, was to blame for the injury.  Therefore a break from running was prescribed, though fortunately only until later this week, when I will be desperate to get out but also very nervous to see just how much fitness I have lost altogether….  Naomi did say that swimming would be fine however, as would cycling on a static bike at 50-60% effort.  So Friday and Sunday became gym sessions (with cycling) and very soon I will be heading out for another spin on the bike in the gym, followed by a short swim – the pool timetable is very awkward now the children are back in school.

In other news away from training (which seems to occupy most of my time and thoughts), I will be starting a new contract with Community Music Wales later this week for an initial period of one day per week for six months.  The role involves business development and I am very much looking forward to getting started and showing what I can do!  It is also another nice addition to my CV and to my freelance portfolio.  This, combined with Bérengère’s promotion, should help pay for some more Ironman equipment and food, though don’t tell her as I think she might already have planned to do something else with the extra cash :).

Lastly, I can update you with news of my second consultation with my nutritionist Satu Jackson, who had analysed the results I had sent her and my training summaries she had seen on the Garmin site.  After the elimination diet, it is very much a case of “more of the same”, although now we know what I can and can’t eat she has provided some specific recipes for us to try and I am able to eat foods like toast or energy bars and gels to help my performance.  I do seem however to have gotten used to a certain calorie intake and I feel as though I could have gained a pound or so in weight since the injury took me down!

Time to brave the changeable weather and head to the gym and pool, and I really must work on that French blog later too!  I also need to write about my equipment, and specifically my bike for Monsieur Chouteau, although it is probably best to wait until we have repaired it now the missing components have arrived!

Why Does my Bike Hate Me?!?!

As if last Sunday on Hay Bluff wasn’t eventful enough, yesterday was a real test of patience! I set off on a long ride, on my own, which was fine, after all this is what the Ironman is all about and it allowed me to work at my own pace. I rode over the Tumble again, then through Pontypool, New Inn and over to Usk before climbing to Chepstow and over to Monmouth, via Devauden and home on the back roads through Rockfield.

That, at least, was the plan!


Something not right here….

On the same climb towards Devauden as my chain came off on the 100km ride with Corny a few   weeks ago, my hanger snapped and derailleur came loose, with no hope of repair out on the road, the rear wheel jammed and I was stuck… I had to carry the bike and walk into Devauden itself where I finally got a mobile phone signal and called my dame in shining armour, my wonderful and doting wife, Bérengère.

Many cyclists stopped to ask if I was OK or needed help. Clearly I wasn’t but what could I do?! One WP_20150215_004helpfully told me that this kind of thing ‘happens’ and I should carry a spare hanger…..until today I didn’t even know what one was!! I was pretty concerned I had serious and lasting damage which would be costly and time consuming to resolve, but several photographic WhatsApp messages to my friendly bike mechanic, Mave, allayed my fears. This is something which can be sorted without too much expense and in a shortish delay. He’ll pop round in a few days and assess the damage and write me a list of the components I’ll need and then hopefully I can persuade him to help me fit them too!!

My biggest disappointment today was the curtailment of the ride however. I was aiming for only my second 100km ride, in a reasonable time and with some good climbs. In fact, I had already climbed nearly 1000metres in 63km, where the Ironman course includes 2000metres of climbing in 180km. I had been going well and felt let down, almost cheated. A mechanical issue such as this is my biggest worry come 13th September. In fact, I’d only just read about a competitor recording a DNF last year because of a broken hanger….. Just how many spares and repairs should I carry with me on course? A whole new bike????!!!


The bike in a sorry state in the shed…

Today though, just to add injury to insult, I set out on my long run with another 36.2km jaunt in mind.  However at 18km I felt a twinge in my hamstring and hobbled on for another 4 before calling it a day and limping weakly along the A40 home from from Glangrwyney.  Pained and again frustrated I am struggling to accept that this is likely to spell a period of rest and recovery and a reduction in the quantity of training I can take on.  I’m hoping two weeks will be enough so I can get back to running for 3 full weeks before tapering for Paris.  Fingers crossed anyway, and hopefully the physio session I have booked in for Thursday will help.  This time I’ve opted for a physio closer to home after feeling like I wasted my money with the “celebrity” near St Albans before Christmas.

Somehow I need to relax, watch what I eat (so I account for using less calories), and recover, probably with more sessions in the swimming pool.  Very difficult for me to do, but I really if I’m careful this won’t take too long to get over and I will be properly prepared and ready for my first ever marathon, in Paris.

Healthy Living

Our elimination diet is coming to an end. It’s time to reflect on what we have learnt!!

After all the trials we now know to avoid gluten, in particular gluten grain.  Everything else has been pretty much ok, but without excess…everything in moderation.

We enjoy eating clean and we have found some benefits in avoiding refined sugars and processed food.  Although I must admit it was a struggle in the last week or so with lots of nice cakes and biscuits in my office, I’ve been good and avoided them all together!

We learnt a lot about how to cook food properly.  Interestingly cooking methods have a great role to play in our diet (and in everybody’s!).  And I am not just talking about frying or deep frying either.  But for example roasting, barbecuing, and chargrilling food is to be avoided.  As soon as a food is browned or crisped, it becomes a source of harm for the body rather than being healthly.  All fats which change their structure become hazardous to health; but coconut oil is a much better and healthier choice and adds a nice flavour to your meals, and you can use it for your skin too!

I found lots of inspiration on these three great websites, Honestly Healthy Food, Deliciously Ella and Hemsley and HemsleyLast Friday we celebrated my father-in-law’s birthday.  It was a little challenge for us to make a nice dinner and a birthday cake.  After a practice last week I re-made a carrot cake and I think everyone enjoyed it!  Gareth will meet again with his dietician in the next couple of weeks, a further step in the journey, and the start of a new challenge.

The sleep hygiene that we introduced is also of great help.  In general we are both sleeping better and I now have time to read!  We have finally received our new mattress too! I was getting bored from being poked in the side by the springs in our old one…The saying goes that you are either in your bed or in your shoes, and in the last week we invested in both!  It was all worth it!

 The training has been going well; I managed my target of four sessions last week, while Gareth has been upping his own training, and mainly his running as the date of the Paris Marathon is approaching. I’m looking forward to it mainly because I’ll be able to catch up with my family and because it will be an important milestone for Gareth.

On Saturday, we went cycling together.  We rode 62km to Talgarth and back home through Bwlch. I really enjoyed it overall, but the last 10K was hard, really hard.  Gareth was only coasting next to me probably having his own back from when I coast next to him at swimming… I tried Gareth’s vegan protein shake afterwards and I think it has made a lot of difference as I was able to run 8k the next day at a decent speed.  I didn’t feel after coming off the bike that I would be able to manage that at all!  Monday was a rest day and on Tuesday I had to put my Sport Massage therapist hat back on as Gareth had done a mighty 36K run so I needed to help him loosen up his muscles!   We will now look to set a more thorough massage plan to go with his training as he is really stepping up the mileage.

My work has been really busy too, everything is so full on and never really stops during the day, so it’s nice to have that 45 min to relax in bed reading before switching off and starting all over again.  Perhaps it’s lucky we don’t have kids!!!

Gareth has also received a few donations for #StayStrongForOws , so if you have already given, thank you ! Only £4,880 left so if you are reading these blogs, please drop him a little something!

Snow fun on Hay Bluff…

So maybe you haven’t heard from me in over a week but I hope you’ve enjoyed the guest blogs from my wife and Paul!  They may also write again soon and who knows, maybe you’ll be treated to other guest blogs from further writers soon….

Since last time, the donations to the JustGiving page have slightly grown to £100, still some way short of the total target, and also the required £2,000 needed to join the Cardiff Blues cycle to Paris in June.  I guess I’ll just view it as needing to (quickly) persuade another 190 people to each donate a tenner…..that’s less people than follow me on Twitter, and fewer connections I have on LinkedIn or friends on Facebook!  Perhaps the new branding for the fundraising which my former colleagues at Dischro Creative are designing for me will help.  Banners on Social Media and particularly on emails should raise awareness……shouldn’t they?!

Weigh-in prior to a run

Weigh-in prior to a run

8 and a half weeks to the Paris Marathon and this morning I completed the farthest distance I need to run in one session – 22.5 miles.  It was hard in all honesty but the climb up to Brynmawr on the cycle path always takes a bit out of me!  Plus I generally run on tired legs (even though yesterday was a rest day, I hadn’t quite recovered fully from the weekend’s “fun” – more of which in a moment), and always carry nearly 2kg on my back in bottles of water.  I need to keep this distance up once a week for

Weigh-in after a hard run...

Weigh-in after a hard run…

the next 5 before I start tapering for the race on 12th April.  We’ve booked accommodation at La Defense and I’m already looking forward to completing my first ever marathon.  Just need to keep a lid of that excitement now so it doesn’t get stale before then!!

Other training has been going pretty well too.  Last Monday (2nd Feb) was a 33k run, followed by a “drills session” in the swimming pool in Abergavenny on the Tuesday in which my esteemed and well-meaning coach/wife gave me target split times that pushed me to my limit!  Despite this, I still felt slow as I swam in the fast line and was consistently passed by faster and better swimmers.  A certain way to point out which of the three disciplines is my weakest….  Wednesday brought an interval run over 14k and Thursday a “relaxing” weights session on back, chest and abs.  On Friday I ran my quickest half-marathon for some time (sub 1.45 hr) on a fairly hard route with more elevation than the whole course in Paris!  Indeed, the Paris course resembles a pancake compared with the surroundings of Abergavenny!

And that introduced the weekend nicely….  Friday night was a birthday celebration for my wonderful father, spoiled only by the Welsh rugby performance and result!  No alcohol and a

Wonky valve, maybe leaky?!

Wonky valve, maybe leaky?!

gluten free evening meant that we slept well even despite the late night.  Bérengère and I headed out on the bikes on Saturday morning so she could literally get back in saddle now she is training for the Y-Fenni Triathlon!  We headed over to Talgarth and back through Bwlch – the same route as my New Year’s day ride with Nige and Corny in fact, and totaling 62k.  After recent rides, this was quite relaxing for me, but poor Bérengère really struggled by the end!  We also changed her pedals, removing the old flat ones upon returning home, so in some ways that will help….in others less so….!

Indeed my own bike has been causing a bit of concern of late….  First there was the “wonky valve” scenario, firstly on the rear wheel….then the front.  Both tyres went flat in turn and this was the only reason I could see!  Was the valve leaking?  The puncture was certainly extremely slow, but to be certain I changed both inner tubes.  Thanks to Mave’s teachings, I’m becoming quite the mechanic….or maybe not yet.

Anyway on Sunday, I joined Corny for a rather eventful morning ride.  I keep suggesting he needs to ride up the Tumble, and he keeps finding an alternative route!  This week his suggestion was Hay Bluff.  No issue for me I thought, I’m quite enjoying climbing whatever and it can only help.  As we crossed the snowline on the ascent, we commented on the icy patches to watch for but were unaware of the fate we had in store as we crossed the summit.  On the far side of the Bluff, as we began to descend, the road was covered in snow and ice pretty much everywhere!  This was no place for a road cycle and as we began to gather speed and head down, trying to pick out the least treacherous path, I could feel any confidence in my cycling ability ebb away and understood it wouldn’t end well.  I wasn’t wrong and down I fell….  Standing back up, the handlebars were no longer correctly aligned and I couldn’t clip my feet in the pedals for the ice build-up on the underside of my shoes!  Corny helped fix my bike and proposed a session of photo taking in the spectacular surroundings (see below….) to cheer us up!  He then suggested an about-turn and walk up the road to descend by the route which we had taken to arrive.  I happily agreed and we safely made it back home.  The bike seems fine, but the stats show a fairly short ride in an extremely long time.  The only real wound I suffered, happily, was to my own pride!  Next weekend, it is now I who will have to pluck up the courage to get back in the saddle once more!

Why I’m Supporting #StayStrongForOws

I admired Owen Williams’ talent as a player as I watched him develop through the ranks.  He has an old head on young shoulders and his brutish physical stature belied the deft touches and finesse of his game.  He was an all-rounder, and, so I’m told, a very grounded and level headed person to be around.  He had already pulled on the red shirt of Wales and looked immediately comfortable, like he belonged.  Many more caps were surely to follow.

What happened to Owen in Singapore was truly awful.  It was no-one’s fault, a freak accident, but one with devastating consequences for Owen himself of course, and for his family.  His rugby career was ended in one split second but his battles are still only at their beginning.  Every day he inches along the road to recovery, with the support of a close-knit family, his community club at Aberdare and of course his region, Cardiff Blues.  Owen’s situation resonates with every player who has ever played the game, and with every partner, parent or sibling who has watched.  The sport is one we deeply love, but one in which there are risks that we accept as we cross the whitewash.  Rugby brings people together, and those bonds are being demonstrated across the World as the rugby community joins together to support Owen in his recovery.

Gareth works for me in my Sport Business.  He had been providing me with consultative support for about four months when he mentioned the challenges he was hoping to undertake in 2015 and asked for my help.  Whilst I admire his determination and ambition, I couldn’t help but think he might have bitten off more than he could chew!  How many marathons had he done previously?  None, yet here was he telling me he would be running in Paris!  And more importantly, how many triathlons had he competed in?  Again, none!  But he planned to jump in at the deep end and sign up for Ironman Wales in Tenby!

I offered to support Gareth and we discussed raising money for a worthwhile cause.  Having been involved in rugby all my life and particularly spending many hours mentoring and nurturing younger players, just like Owen, I was passionate that his was the cause we should be donating to.  Gareth agreed wholeheartedly and approached Cardiff Blues for their blessing, which we duly received last week.  We have set an ambitious, but achievable target of £5,000 for the year, although of course we hope to raise more for Owen if we possibly can!

Gareth will also be joining the Cardiff Blues cycle ride to Paris in June if we can raise enough money (£2,000) in time, and of course his training will continue for the next seven and a half months.  Both of us will in the meantime be working tirelessly to promote his endeavours and spread the message, which will hopefully enable us to exceed our targets.

All I can say is this: if you can afford to give, even just a little, please help.  You can donate here.  If you know of anyone, or any company who can help publicise this fundraising effort, or make a donation, please contact us, or pass our details on.

Thank you all for your anticipated support.


Life behind the Iron…man …

Behind every Ironman is there an Ironwoman or an Ironwife?? Except that I won’t be entering the gruelling event myself; I am too lazy to commit to such a lengthy training regime. But I have committed to give all the support I can to my very own Ironman from behind the scenes.

Gareth set his goal in November when he signed up, and then from 5th January the big changes in our lifestyle started.  He went to see a nutritionist and then we began the elimination diet on January 5th.  Yes “we”.  As there are only 2 of us it is much easier to plan meals, to cook and to shop, and also it means that we are doing this together. It is important for me to understand what he is going through, so I can help him more.

It took me a couple of weeks to adjust to my role or my multiple roles, those of housewife, cook, sports massage therapist, swimming coach…!!  I certainly didn’t want to become an “Iron-widow”!  In all of these changes I need to find my place, where I fit in, how I can enjoy it and not make it all a burden or tiring process.  After all since this is a once in a lifetime challenge, we may as well enjoy it together.

My primary and most important task is to make home life as easy as possible for Gareth so he can concentrate on his training, without worrying and rushing to do other things. (Although convincing him not to worry is another challenge all of its own which I began some 12 and half years ago…).  At first cooking proved difficult with our new diet, trying to make tasty dishes using a limited number of options and making enough of it!  Although the nutritionist said that during the elimination diet training will probably need to be eased back, Gareth has done the total opposite, so I need to make sure he is not left starving!!!  After a week I started enjoying it, I learned to be a bit more creative, trying new things with new ingredients. I attempted to make banana bread and carrot cake but without flour, eggs or sugar… although I didn’t succeed in making something edible, until yesterday that is!!!  As we started to re-introduce ingredients, I tried again, and finally we had a sugar and gluten free cake we could eat and enjoy.

I also entered the Abergavenny Triathlon myself.  I always fancied having a go at a triathlon, so on the 10th May I will be entering my 1st one. I could and probably should have entered an easier one.  As a decent swimmer 800m in the pool won’t be difficult, but a 50K bike ride up the Tumble and a 10K run up the Sugar Loaf will be a totally different kettle of fish!  I don’t like running up hills, and I am relatively new to cycling so you may think I am being rather ambitious.  So now I will have to balance home life, a full time job and training.  I am doing the meal plans so I have enough time to go to the gym some evenings.  I am setting myself a target of training four times a week. And from next week, that will include one cycle ride per week. I must admit so far I have only managed three!  So more commitment and better organisation is required, and maybe less cold weather could help too…

New trainers!

New trainers!

Tuesday will be my 5th session with my physiotherapist – my knees don’t particularly appreciate running on tarmac and they usually let me know all about it!  Last week we went to DW Sports in Newport, and underwent a gait analysis session, which showed I was using the wrong trainers, so I got a new pair with the correct support and cushioning. The analysis was free, and although the trainers weren’t that cheap it was worth it.  I went for a 10K run yesterday and I could feel the difference.  I’m really hopeful they will help alleviate the knee pain.

Some of you may say my life is a little boring.  Up, work, gym, home, cook, bed, (repeat x5), then: up, clean, training, massage, cook, and bed (x 2).  But there is something quite rewarding about seeing your better half getting on with his training, progressing, and being a little part of it.

I can only admire his commitment, determination, and all the hard work is putting into this, all with the selfless aim of raising money for Owen Williams. #StayStrongForOws.  So please donate.

Tumbling Towards Training Milestones

A squinting "selfie" into the Sun at the summit of the Tumble.

A squinting “selfie” into the Sun at the summit of the Tumble.

When I began writing this blog yesterday evening, it had a slightly different flavour!  However today’s training involved my first ride up the iconic “Tumble” just outside Abergavenny.  Though the total distance was just 55km today, the ride up the mountain is 6km at 10% according to the sign at the bottom and overall it felt pretty good and didn’t take too much out of the legs.  You can probably tell I feel quite pleased with myself about this!!

In fact, training as a whole has been gathering pace….perhaps too much so, to the extent that I’m wary that I could “peak to soon”, so to speak!  For instance last Sunday, I joined Corny in a four-hour cycle over to Usk and onwards to Chepstow, Monmouth, back to Usk and home – 100Km in total, by far my longest ride.  During the week I pushed on with a brick session on Monday (hour ride, 35 minute run) accompanied by Mave, then 3.4Km in the Swimming Pool on Tuesday, in a modest time of 1hr 30.  This though, is my farthest swim, with plenty of energy in reserve for another 400 metres (Ironman distance….).  On Wednesday, I then attacked my longest ever run, totalling 32km, most of which was accompanied again by Mave.

By the time Thursday came round, I was ready for the rest day and I certainly felt tired when I joined Mave again, and Nick (a brand new training buddy!) after 5km on Friday and allowed them to race the legs off me for another 11 kilometres!  Yesterday (Saturday) therefore turned into another rest day, but today’s cycle precedes a week full of planned activity….

On Friday, I headed to Cardiff for meetings, the first of which was with Helen Davies, family liaisonWP_20150130_001 officer at Cardiff Blues.  I had been conversing with Helen about my decision to fund raise for the #StayStrongForOws campaign, and it was she who had broken the good news about Paul Turner Sport & I being accepted as donors by Owen and his family.  Helen was extremely welcoming, grateful and complimentary about my aspirations and my hopes to raise £5,000 for Owen this year.  Indeed, she seemingly has more confidence in me than I do myself, which I suppose will not come as a huge surprise to those who know me!  Helen will be joining the Blues cycle ride to Paris in June, as I also hope to, assuming I can raise the requisite £2,000 in enough time.  So far, I have set up my Just Giving page, and written a blog and several tweets about the cause.  Despite receiving several “retweets” and “shares” to promote my endeavours, I am yet to receive a single penny in donations.  This is preoccupying my thoughts somewhat I must admit, and I need to find a way to speak to those who are willing and able to donate.  On the one hand I feel positive in that I am not someone who regularly asks for money and so hopefully my friends, family and acquaintances will not mind my one-off request this year.  However, on the flip side, I have little or no experience in fund raising so the whole process is a learning curve.  I just hope to reach enough kind souls as quickly as possible to finally get me off the mark.  For now, I guess I should concentrate on donations for my first event, the Paris marathon, in just 10 weeks.

Mave and I return sweaty and triumphant from a half-marathon run!

Mave and I return sweaty and triumphant from a half-marathon run!

The other talking point has of course been the diet.  Overall this has been going quite well.  The only real issue seems to have been with gluten grains, which caused a banging headache, like a hangover (but I promise we still haven’t touched a drop of alcohol, or caffeine, since Jan 5th!).  I do seem to be hungry and eating all of the time however, possibly because rice based products and mackerel just don’t fill me up enough!

The diet has however taught us to be more creative with our cooking, and Bérengère in particular has pulled out all the stops to find tasty and filling recipes with a more limited supply of ingredients and avoiding the convenience of food we “normally” eat like pasta or bacon.  She has allowed me to enjoy soup, which I never thought I would, by cooking veg with lentils and adding herbs.  She has cooked a carrot cake with no sugar or gluten, which tastes great!  The generally good news is that dairy, egg, bread and now even Pork seem to be fine, and the overall “morals” seem to be suggesting we should be paying more attention to quality (natural rather than processed ingredients), quantity (a little of what you fancy, rather than a stomach full) and, perhaps most importantly, cooking methods – I had assumed Pork would provide a major problem, but in a slow-cooked curry it seemed fine, however had we roasted Belly Pork I think there would have been a big issue!

The diet finishes in just over two weeks, so we’ll be celebrating Dad’s birthday and watching Wales play rugby this week in a completely “dry” state!  Quite unusual maybe, but I’m sure in a couple of weeks I may be able to sample a small pastis once more…..

This week our new mattress should finally arrive (having been ordered 5 weeks ago…), which should also help with sleep and therefore assist with recovery, and we sample corn and Beef (not corned beef….)!  Training will include running, swimming, weights, more running and cycling.  Which reminds me, I need to get that lost bolt on the cleat of the cycling shoe replaced ASAP!