Time to Taper.

Well that’s it!  All ready for Paris!  Well, not exactly quite yet, but this is the end of the period of very long runs, ending with a 22.6 miler last Sunday in just over 3 hours.  I’m pretty glad this section is done as there are only so many routes to run and it was kind of getting a little “boring” I suppose!  I’m really looking forward to the marathon now, it feels like that will be the real start of this year’s activities, and is only five months (sounds a lot, but isn’t!) before the Ironman!

The training plan with taper included!

The training plan with taper included!

It’s quite strange to read updates from most other Ironman participants talking about how they are beginning to increase their own workloads, yet here am I already at full marathon distance and in fact tapering down!  If it wasn’t for Paris, I would certainly have peaked way too early!  That said, there is no way I am going to be able to maintain the same level of consistency for six months in total, so after the marathon, I will ease back slightly, concentrating on the brick and pool sessions and preparing for the Y-Fenni triathlon on May 10th.  I should have the aerobic fitness in the bank, it is going to be all about getting back in the pool and getting my legs used to riding the bike again.  Sadly Bérengère’s injury has stopped her training for the triathlon and she has had to relinquish her place, although she’ll still be coming along to support me, and maybe even marshaling on the day!  She’ll also be a lot fresher than I when we sit down to our second anniversary meal the next day!

New rear mech and spare cable = more ££

New rear mech and spare cable = more ££

Speaking of the bike, it seems that I wasn’t quite so lucky with the mechanical issues and now as well as the new chain and hanger, I have also had to purchase a complete new rear mech!  This needs to be fitted over the next few weeks, but should solve the problems once and for all….  What was happening when Mave tried to service the bike was that when in it’s lowest gear, the mech was rubbing slightly on the wheel spokes, as a part of the derailleur was too loose (I don’t proclaim to know exactly what, or by how much!).  This is probably what caused the hanger to break in the first place, and I am making an assumption that the “bent mech” probably stems from my fall on Hay Bluff in the snow a few months back!  (Cornock you owe me a few quid 🙂 !) In any case, I’m keeping my fingers crossed that this really is now the solution to my bike woes and I will be back in the saddle, quite literally, upon my return from Paris (the second time!).

Finally ambushed a doctor and got a medical certificate signed (for free!)

Finally ambushed a doctor and got a medical certificate signed (for free!)

Indeed, I will be heading to Paris this Sunday (29th March) as well.  Not to recce the course in the city centre before the “big day”, but as part of my work with Paul Turner Sport.  Sunday 29th March marks the start of the Disney Junior Rugby Festival which lasts for 5 days.  I’ll be residing with the Sport Experiences Events Team at Davy Crockett Ranch, while the coaches enjoy the Sequoia Park Hotel.  The matches and training day are being played at Meaux Rugby, ironically a ground I visited when I represented U.S.O. Nevers all those years ago in Fédérale 2 in 2003!  I won’t get to see Mickey Mouse, or indeed any Disney rides at all as I will be responsible for organisation and administration for both Paul and Sport Experiences.  My main concern though is my training!  I’m already swapping this Friday’s rest day to take on Sunday instead when we travel (so two rest days in a row…no other realistic option available…) as it is too inconvenient otherwise, and I don’t want to miss my two sessions when I am away.  Early mornings beckon as I hit the trails around the ranch to make sure I stay on track for my return to Paris just one week later!

The draw will be made on 1st May

The draw will be made on 1st May

The #StayStrongForOws fund-raising has been up and down to say the least!  Paul did a fantastic job asking many on Twitter to donate and there was a big influx, topped up by some kindly friends and colleagues on our side, but this has now tailed off a little.  Dad has been asking around and pursuing a few leads that will hopefully turn out positive and I am grateful to him for all of these efforts as usual.  We’ve made it to about half of our first £2000 target for the Cardiff Blues cycle ride and there are still several weeks to go to raise the money.  Hopefully as I collect the prizes, and get a few PR photos done, for example with the Racing Metro players, this will help the word spread on Twitter as to date there have not been many retweets other than from a few faithful supporters (who have also donated).  I am grateful for any support and you may see me tweeting my thanks to them for their help too.

Thoughts now turn to what to pack for Paris, twice over!  The second trip will require some proper planning, with running kit for all weathers plus beetroot shots and protein powders to boot!  I’ve also just ordered some new trainers to break in and use for the race, hopefully leaving nothing to chance.  With just a few more runs (including one in an hour or so!) and some of Bérengère’s magic sports massage, I hope to be fighting fit for the race.  Well, we all know what they say…. “proper preparation prevents p**s poor performance”!!!

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The Eyes Have It….

Be warned….this post is likely to be quite long as much has happened since my last English language blog.  You may need a cup of tea to accompany you on this “mini-journey” today!

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The sleeping arrangements were difficult after eye surgery!

I’ve had in my mind for a while to talk briefly about my eyes and exactly how they impact on my Ironman journey.  Strange thing to say maybe, but most who know me, or have seen me on a screen will notice that I am often seen in spectacles, well until July last year at least.  That was the time at which I finally bit the bullet and chose to undergo laser eye surgery in Cardiff under the watchful gaze of my Dad, who kindly performed taxi duties then joined me in the operating theatre to watch my corneas being slashed and burned!  This may seem like a bizarre aside to the more pressing concerns of training and eating, however I feel it is absolutely relevant.  Before the operation, not only could I not see without glasses, but any time I wished to exercise I had to “faff” with contact lenses – before swimming, running and cycling, it added to the time taken to prepare, and what’s more, often meant I was uncomfortable, suffering from grit in the eye, or dry eyes.  Put simply, without undergoing this procedure I do not feel I would have been able to enter and train for the events this year.  The amount of time I am spending out and about preparing, now without even having to think about my sight, has made a huge difference.  I realise how lucky I am to have been able to go through this operation, and I am extremely pleased I did so.

Training has stepped up a notch in the past month, almost exclusively now focusing on running with just four weeks left until the marathon.  I am following the London Marathon 17-week advanced training plan (which you can see here), and of course fitting the timing to suit my race date.  I have also slightly increased the distance – so instead of doing two recent runs of 20 miles, I have instead been doing 22.5 miles.  Mentally, this makes me a little more comfortable….  Overall, pace has been OK, but I am now in the dilemma of running so much better than before and wondering whether I could make a specific time in Paris!  Whereas I initially stated “anything under four hours” would be acceptable and secretly hoped for 3 hours 45, I now find myself dreaming about running 3 hours 30…..  The course is flatter, I will be fresher and not carrying my water……. but there will be lots of people……  I just don’t know!  The last thing I want to do is head off too quickly and struggle near the end, but neither do I want to finish knowing I had a lot more in me!  For the moment, in training, I am very tired 6 km from the end, and that is where I need to learn to overcome the doubts that creep in……  We shall see!

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Naomi Lang – Indigo Rehab

As regular readers of the blog will remember, it was not that long ago that I injured my hamstring whilst out on a long run.  At that point, I took my time to recover and visited physio Naomi Lang of Indigo Rehab in Llanover.  Naomi was great and gave me some great advice and some exercises to do that helped me recover really quickly.  What is always good about a physio as opposed to a doctor is the “functional” rehabilitation as opposed to just rest, and that meant that I was able to swim and use a static bike, which stopped me going stir crazy at home!  The next time I saw Naomi, about 10 days later, I was much better and the exercises she had given me (and that I had diligently followed!) had strengthened some weaknesses in my ligaments.  I now have even more to practice and will visit her again after Paris for a check-up.  Hopefully I will be fine, but her keen eye will help me iron out weaknesses and imbalances in my body as I move into the next phase of training towards triathlons and brick sessions.

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Mave and Nick survey the Sugar Loaf from the Blorenge.

As I recovered from the injury, I joined Mave and Nick for my first longer run “back in the saddle”, a 30 km jog up the cycle path to Brynmawr from Abergavenny before they took me for my first taste of trail running over the Blorenge!  It was quite fun, although I must admit to a few nerves, firstly at 18 km (the distance at which I twanged my hamstring a few weeks before) and secondly in the mud and soft terrain coming back down where I knew another injury could rule me out of Paris!  Fortunately I survived, and although I may one day head back to trail running, it is unlikely to be until after the Ironman now!

WP_20150305_004Mave has in fact joined me for my long runs of late as well, as he too is preparing for a marathon.  He though is well ahead of schedule as he is not competing until the Liverpool Marathon of 14th June!  Perhaps he should take it a little easier but he is really keen to get the miles in already, although no doubt he will be well prepared by the WP_20150305_005 (1)time the race comes around.  He’s already told me he’ll be aiming to beat my time, so I need to set down a good marker in Paris!!  Fortunately my friendly mechanic has also now fixed my bike, replacing the broken mech hanger and also the chain.  As soon as Paris is done I need to get back out pedaling up the hills and getting off the bike and running as there will be just four weeks until the Y-Fenni triathlon on 10th May.

Bérengère is also entered into the Y-Fenni triathlon, although her fractured foot has somewhat held her back in training, to the extent that she is now not sure whether she should compete at all.  Later this week she will head back out on the bike and see how well she climbs, to judge whether she will manage the Tumble this time around or not.  We shall see…..  Apart from this set-back, she has been working extra hard around the house, cooking some lovely gluten-free treats (including a delicious vegan dessert for Mother’s Day) and massaging my aching legs, which has been a great benefit to me.  I don’t like to see her suffer, and I know how disappointed she will be if she has to drop out of the triathlon in May, however I worry that she will struggle and I won’t be there to help her…  Either way, I’m sure we’ll have a nice anniversary meal the next day!

PrizesFinally, a résumé of the fund raising effort for #StayStrongForOws.  In recent weeks, the donations have increased substantially, which is of course brilliant, although still some way short of the £2000 I need by mid-May.  Thanks to Paul, who has asked his contacts in Rugby for assistance, we have obtained some fantastic gifts, such as signed jerseys from Racing Metro and the Newport Gwent Dragons, and also tickets for Llanelli Scarlets v Cardiff Blues and Ospreys v Glasgow Warriors, and we are using these for a prize draw on May 1st.  Everyone who donates £10 will be entered and we really hope to generate some interest and donations from rugby fans who would like to win these amazing items.  The only thing we need to do right now is ensure they are aware of the draw!  So we need to spend time tweeting the poster to rugby clubs and fans, and also posting in Facebook groups.  It’s a time consuming process but it’s all in aid of Owen Williams, so well worth it.

#StayStrongForOws Grand Prize Draw

Fund raising is not something I am particularly used to doing personally.  If the truth be told, I find it quite difficult asking for money from others, not least because this seems to be a daily activity most of us will encounter already whether in the street, online or on TV.  However, this year I have made a commitment to do my best to raise funds for former Welsh International Owen Williams, as has my colleague Gareth who is participating in several sporting events, beginning with the Paris Marathon in just a few weeks’ time.

One of the ways we have hit upon to raise funds is to hold a prize draw for everyone who donates £10 (or multiple thereof).  To encourage entries, we needed to get some pretty spectacular prizes together and I think we have just about managed to do that!  Thanks to a few of my contacts over my playing and coaching career, I was able to put out a few calls and the response was amazing.  Not one person turned down my request when they heard who the money would be for, and this really epitomises the strength of feeling in the rugby community and the support for Owen and the whole #StayStrongForOws campaign.

Thanks to the Welsh players in Paris, and particularly to Luke Charteris, we are able to offer a signed Racing Metro jersey as a prize for one lucky winner.  This is a really special piece of memorabilia, and something which is would be almost unique in the UK.  This is a really big prize for someone to win and it alone should pique the interest of most rugby fans, and will hopefully encourage many to donate a tenner to such a worthwhile cause to have a chance of winning it.

PrizesSeparately, through contacts in Wales we have pairs of tickets to regional games, including one derby (Scarlets v Blues) available and one potentially decisive fixture at the Liberty Stadium between Ospreys and Glasgow Warriors in May.  I’ve also been provided with a signed Newport Gwent Dragons shirt and Gareth will be getting a signed #StayStrongForOws ball from the Cardiff Blues.

Naturally these prizes are great and hopefully will encourage more donations.  Whether you decide to donate to enter the prize draw, or in recognition of Gareth’s exploits, or both, you can rest assured that everybody who joins us in donating to Owen and his family will, I am certain, be winners in their eyes.  So please do give all you can, cross your fingers and hopefully you may win a prize.  Tell all your friends and family to enter too and let’s work together to generate a good amount to help Owen in his recovery.

(Blog also appears online at www.PaulTurnerSport.co.uk/News)

Mental Strength

Well what a month it has been! I would have like to have written my post weeks ago but time was not really on my side these last few weeks.
I did start out with a good cycle ride using my new clip in pedals (and my first fall), and then came Gareth’s “broken” bike, Gareth’s injury, my promotion in work, followed by a stress fracture in my right foot.
The ups and downs of training and working life are all there in the space of just a few weeks.

My work has taken up a lot of my time recently with many late finishes. But I still had the time to help Gareth recuperate from his injury and from his hard training sessions.  I also have a new Sports massage client, having managed to fit an appointment into my full-on schedule! Unfortunately for me last Sunday after a good run I felt a very sharp pain in my right foot and it didn’t subside, so I went for an X-ray on the Monday which revealed the smallest of fractures of my 5th metatarsal. Apparently the only cure for this is to rest. Rest is no friend of mine however; I don’t have time simply to “rest”!  The doctor said to keep my foot up but I can’t do that either there is always plenty to do!! So overall I am very frustrated right now, my running was going well and I had started to up the kilometres. Now the realisation that I am severely under-prepared for the Triathlon in May is scaring me! It’s only a couple of months away and I have never cycled up anything like the Tumble as yet and I have no idea when I will be able to get back into full training, so I may have to reconsider entering.  It’s a very hard decision to make!!!

I have chosen to call today’s blog “Mental Strength” because I feel it is so important in training, from the determination to train day after day, to overcoming an injury setback. Being strong mentally matters so much and dictates what you can achieve; it really is half the battle. Gareth’s determination and mental strength is simply amazing. As I struggle with the bigger challenges, (mainly big hills!!) he knocks down challenge after challenge as though they are no big deal. His biggest frustration has been his injury but he followed the instructions from the physio and was back to full training in no time. Even during a long and testing run he still finds that energy and the drive to carry on just as hard or even harder. He looks at hills as though they are some sort of game, whilst I’m stuck at the bottom trying not to let nerves get the better of me and doubting I can even make it half way! A week before my injury during a run, I needed to stop before a long and hard hill and I could feel myself tensing up, affecting my breathing and running style. I stopped to compose myself and went for it and managed to do it, slowly maybe but at least I managed! However I did have to stop even before I started!!! So somehow I need to learn to copy this strength from him! How I can do this is the Million Dollar question.
Finding a way to build your mental strength is difficult and unique to each and every one of us. Some people even say you are born with or without it. I am not sure about this to be honest.

Blueberry Breakfast Bar

Blueberry Breakfast Bar

Anybody can achieve anything if it really matters to them; they just need to find what it is that makes them “tick”!

Yesterday Gareth ran 36km. He looked tired but his recovery is very good. Today is his day off and he is back to it tomorrow. It’s relentless but he enjoys it (I think). I spent my time cooking as he eats…well, a lot!!!  I made some blueberry breakfast bars inspired by Deliciously Ella (from a recipe in last Saturday’s Telegraph) and also a gluten free Pear, Hazelnut and chocolate cake.
I have no doubt that Gareth will demolish them in no time so I will have to find something else to make quickly!

The fundraising is progressing well but could be

Pear, Hazelnut & Chocolate Cake

Pear, Hazelnut & Chocolate Cake

a lot better. So please if you haven’t done so already please donate here! Help Gareth and Paul meet their first target of £2,000 so he can join the cycle ride to Paris for #StayStrongForOws. Thank you….

Don’t forget also that for every £10 you donate before the 1st May, you will have the chance to win some fantastic prizes, like signed jerseys or tickets to Pro 12 matches – all proceeds will be going directly to the appeal thanks to the generous donations of the clubs involved.

Mon progrès en Français…

Je sais que depuis la création de mon blog, j’ai un peu négligé mes amis et supporteurs en France, donc c’est pourquoi  je prends enfin le temps d’écrire quelques mots dans ma deuxième langue !  Evidemment, cela n’est pas toujours possible – la plupart des dons vont venir de la Grande Bretagne et donc les mises à jour seront primordialement faites en anglais…

Vous avez sûrement déjà pigé exactement ce que je fais en 2015, mais au cas où….
Je me suis inscrit dans les événements suivants :
Le marathon de Paris (12 avril)
Le triathlon d’Abergavenny (10 mai)
Le <<Iron Mountain Sportif>> – 160km en vélo (8 août)
et….
L’Ironman Wales (13 septembre).

WP_20150215_004J’espère également pouvoir faire Cardiff-Paris en vélo (début juin) avec les Cardiff Blues si je peux amasser assez d’argent (£2,000) avant mai, et je cherche à faire une course de natation en eau libre.  Grâce à nos amis Chouteau’s, je vais aussi participer dans un « stage Ironman » proposé par M.CHOUTEAU Pierre-Yves et son ami multi-Ironman !

Jusqu’à là tout va bien…. Ou presque !  Lundi 16 février je me suis un peu claqué à ma jambe gauche !  J’ai vu la kiné jeudi, qui m’avait expliquée que la cause est sûrement due à l’augmentation du vélo suivi par une course à pied assez longue le lendemain !  Heureusement la blessure n’est pas trop grave et j’ai pu rapidement recommencer mon entrainement après…. Il ne me reste que 5 semaines avant le marathon de Paris….

J’ai également « cassé » mon vélo la veille…enfin, le vélo n’était pas vraiment cassé mais seulement une partie dont j’avais besoin pour pédaler, et donc je suis plutôt tombé en panne à 30km d’Abergavenny !  J’ai dû porter le vélo pour grimper jusqu’au prochain village afin de pouvoir téléphoner Bérengère pour venir me chercher….  Vraiment du « fun »  pendant deux jours!

WP_20150301_002De l’autre côté, on a maintenant fini le régime alimentaire pour savoir quelles sortes de nourriture on tolère, et ce qu’on ne va pas pouvoir manger !  Ca faisait six semaines sans caféine, alcool et, pour la plupart du temps : des glutens, des produits laitiers, du chocolat…. (donc pas de pâtes, de fromage etc !).  Heureusement, le résultat est qu’il n’y a pas beaucoup de choses qu’il faut toujours éviter – seulement le gluten, même s’il est toujours conseillé de ne pas boire trop de caféine ni d’alcool !

Pour l’instant je fais beaucoup moins de séances en vélo, en partie parce qu’il vient seulement d’être réparer cette semaine, mais aussi parce que je me concentre sur le footing avant le marathon de Paris dans seulement cinq semaines…  Avant, les sorties en vélo se passaient très bien, la plupart dans les montagnes et la plus longe de 100KM – mis à part les deux où j’ai glissé sur la neige dans les montagnes autour de Brecon et j’ai échoué à Devauden !

Le planning avant Paris est pour 2 semaines de footing (et natation) assez rigoureux, suivi par trois semaines plus légère pour bien préparer pour le 12 avril où j’aurai le soutien de mes parents, ma femme, mais aussi de ma belle-famille française !  Pourvu que je peux fournir un joli spectacle qu’on puisse fêter ça autour d’une bière après !

En participant dans tous les épreuves cette année, j’essaie d’amasser de l’argent pour aider Owen Williams, un joueur de rugby gallois qui a malheureusement souffert une blessure grave lors d’un match à Singapore en 2014 avec son club, Cardiff Blues.  Il est désormais sorti de l’hôpital mais est cloué dans un fauteuil roulant à seulement 23 ans.  Sa vie, et celle de sa famille a vraiment changé et le Cardiff Blues organisent souvent des événements pour le soutenir, tels que le voyage Cardiff-Paris en vélo en juin que j’espère également rejoindre.

Dans l’année je souhaite de recueillir £5000 avec £2000 avant juin.  J’ai déjà des idées pour gagner plus d’argent, tels qu’un loto pour gagner les maillots de Racing Metro ou Ospreys signé par les joueurs, ou de faire le vélo devant un supermarché avec des seaux !  Par contre, il faut que j’attende la fin avril avant de recommencer le vélo pour que je ne blesse pas à nouveau avant le marathon !  Pour l’instant, on est à £470 et mon père et Bérengère m’aident à trouver des autres sponsors et les convaincre de donner un peu d’argent !  J’espère également que Paul Turner, avec qui je travail, va pouvoir aussi demander à ses contacts et qu’on va pouvoir augmenter les dons assez vite….

Voilà mon premier blog en français, j’espère que j’ai tout bien expliqué mais n’hésitez surtout pas à faire passer le message et me poser des questions si vous avez besoin d’autres informations !  Merci encore pour tout le soutien et comme on dit cette année « #StayStrongForOws »
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Strong Roots to Grow Success

With any journey such as the one I have embarked upon, there is naturally an element of sacrifice and dedication.  But it is important to remember that this is not solely on the part of the athlete involved.  In fact, the team behind the athlete, usually family members, are just as vital, if not more so, and my story is of course no different.  In this blog, I’d like to highlight just what my family are doing for me and pass on a collective vote of thanks.

Indeed, I must confess that I feel as though I could have become a little self-obsessed with my training since it is pretty much occupying most of my waking thoughts in terms of planned sessions, physio and nutrition.  Not a day passes without thinking of my route to the Ironman and with limited social activities to break up my week, I fear I may well have become somewhat of a bore and could seem egotistical, a trait I detest in others.  Hopefully this blog will go some way to redressing that balance.

usI do know however, and I want to tell you now, that whilst I am out and about running, cycling and swimming, my wife is planning meals, preparing recovery shakes and setting up her massage table to help ease my aches and pains.  She is cooking, cleaning, washing and…..well not ironing, I still need to have something to do to show a little bit of willing after all!

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Mam and Dad!

My parents continue to provide support, encouragement and of course, love.  Their interest in my training and their patience in listening to my tales, worries and woes is so touching, and I know how lucky I am to have them behind me in this way.  When I was injured two weeks ago, they were there to listen, pick me back up and assure me that everything would be fine.  Aside from all that they do for me in these ways, they have also sponsored me with an extremely generous, and totally unexpected donation.  They are, after all, already spending a good deal of money to come and cheer me on, not just in Tenby in September, but also in Paris at the marathon in just 6 weeks time.  And as if that wasn’t enough, Dad is helping my fundraising efforts, requesting donations on my behalf and offering suggestions on how we can raise the profile and hit targets.  As always, I am eternally grateful for their love and support, and proud to be their son.  I just hope I can do them justice this year and not turn into the egotistical monster I am so concerned about!

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Bro’ and Mimi

Alex and Mylène, my brother and de facto “sister in law”, have also been generous in their support and they too have donated, again when I did not expect them to!  They too will be joining me in Tenby, forming a strong team of 6, all travelling down to watch and support just one person, me.  Many participants have the commitment and understanding of their partner, and whilst I am no exception in that, I am so lucky to have my whole family behind me in this way and here and now I want to say a big thanks to all of them.

OK.....this isn't recent, but I like this one!

OK…..this isn’t recent, but I like this one!

We are of course a close family, and enjoy our time spent together, such as on a photoshoot last weekend.  We are so relaxed in each others company and enjoy fooling around and making each other laugh.  Moments together, like the photo session, are precious and memorable.

Having this high level of support gives me that warm feeling inside and I certainly owe  a few favours….or drinks after 13th September!  The main worry for me though is that I do them proud and prove that all of the sacrifices and support have been worthwhile!  Fingers crossed…..