And I did. After most races I am left with the feeling I could have run faster if only I had trained harder, better and for longer. This year I set out to banish this feeling and finally smash my running goals as part of the list of things to do before I’m 40. I could build the drama by drawing out the story but I should probably skip to the end. I failed miserably.
I found out that all little obstacles to training harder are still there and don’t magically disappear because I am approaching a milestone birthday. Motivation is still hard if you are essentially lazy and life tends to get in the way of training. Having a baby adds new hurdles as well. The colds my darling boy brings home from nursery really punch a hole in my training and spending the night before a race trying to soothe him while he screams with the pain of teething is not ideal preparation. To really make it hard I even managed to break my toe four weeks before a race.
However, there were highs. Despite running being relegated to my third sporting priority behind cycling and rugby, I still completed five races including my first duathlon and logged over 250km in training. I introduced two friends to muddy trail races and got one of them hooked. Admittedly it took me three hours to nurse the other one round the Kamikaze Adventure Race leaving her exhausted, filthy and bruised but she can laugh about it now and that is a triumph in itself. I also raised hundreds of pounds for Meningitis Now (formerly Meningitis Trust) and get a great deal of satisfaction from doing it.
So what have I learnt? I may not have hit targets but I don’t feel like they are out of my reach now the big day is approaching. I am in good shape and am already planning next year’s races and challenges. Turning 40 is not a cut off and there is no reason why I can’t run faster as I rumble towards my 50s. I have also enjoyed the social side of running much more and loved the camaraderie of running with friends. I saw a hashtag trend on twitter last week that was something like #reasonswhyIrun. I didn’t join in because it is too hard to summarise in 140 characters. It makes me feel good for so many reasons and I am happy to still be running as I plunge into my forties.
Last year I made a list of things I wanted to do in the year I turned 40 and now I am on to the big one. I have assembled the fattest peloton in cycling history and together we are going to tackle one of the most iconic climbs in the Tour de France – Alpe D’Huez. This may not mean much to anyone who isn’t a fan of cycling so I will attempt to put in context.
Height – The climb we will be attempting to cycle has 21 hairpins, an average gradient of 8.1% (very steep) and ascends a total of 1,150 metres. That is the equivalent to cycling up Mount Snowdon, getting to the top and finding you’ve got another 65 metres to climb. I am training for this ride in the Chiltern Hills, highest point 267 metres.
Weight – Most cyclists are skinny and as you all know, I am not. In fact I am confident that I weigh as much as Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome combined. I was considered asking someone to calculate how many watts of energy it would take to get me up the mountain but they would probably think I was taking the piss.
Experience – I have never attempted anything remotely like this before, have tendency to blow up when things get tough and I am nearly 40. I am being accompanied by three men who despite being my friends are idiots (they wouldn’t deny this). Not an ideal combination.
Why are we doing this? The primary reason is because we love the challenge but the secondary reason is because we want to raise some money for charity. Since George contracted Meningitis at birth I have been a supporter of the Meningitis Trust and the work they do to help families affected by this disease. George made a full recovery from his illness but for others the effects can last a lifetime. We hope you can support us and babies like George by making a small donation via our Justgiving page.
It’s no surprise how much blog space has been dedicated to New Year’s resolutions this month and I apologise for adding to all these words with my own attempt at self-improvement. I’m not actually making any resolutions as most of what I’m planning to do this year I’d already put on my list of things to do before I’m 40. I’m also sticking with some of the other things I started last year like losing more weight alongside my international brothers in weight loss.
However, I have been inspired to set myself a new challenge after being inspired by the efforts of ‘Run Hemingway, Run’. My plan for 2013 is to cycle 2,013km and run 201.3km, logging both on my lovely little Strava app. I think I can do this but I’m really not sure as it is a long way (obviously!). I’m hoping to recruit friends to cycle and run with me along the way to make things easier and please do encourage me throughout the year.
I’m looking at a couple of different races at the moment and for one of them I will be raising money for the Meningitis Trust. I was delighted to raise over £400 last year and I’m banking on you helping me beat that target this year. I will be blogging about my progress (or lack of it) with this challenge so get used to me complaining about how much my legs hurt.
Please post all your words disbelief, encouragement or empathy in the box below. Thanks!
Even though I’m not even 39 yet I have managed to tick the first task off my 40 list. At the tender age of not quite 5 months, George made his first trip to the home of English rugby – Twickenham. The game we took him to was the London Double Header on the opening day of season – a game featuring four of the London rugby teams including the current champions, Harlequins.
We had some history with this fixture as I had already bought tickets for last year’s game before we knew my wife was pregnant. George actually made his first trip to HQ whilst growing inside his Mamma and was helpfully giving her morning sickness that resembled a tropical disease. The year before we witnessed a try-fest in our corner and my lovely wife failed miserably to get Tom Varndell to wave at her before succeeding in getting a bemused Austin Healy to wave back. Happy days.
All the preparations for the big day were going well. George had out grown the Ireland top his Mamma had bought him at Dublin airport leaving his England top with his name on the back as the only alternative. I had successfully purchased some baby ear defenders in case it got noisy and as you can see from the picture they made him look super cute. All good so far.
We left for Twickenham in good spirits but by the time we had navigated the appalling traffic we were rushing to get to the ground in time for kick off. I bought the tickets late this year and didn’t manage to get pitch level tickets like we had before but I didn’t think this would be a problem. When we opened the door on to the stand I realised I was wrong and it was far higher and more exposed than I thought it would be. George was strapped to my chest in a baby carrier and seemed happy so far. As I walked up the steps to our seats he set off a chain reaction of ‘aahhhss’ as the people on the end of each row caught sight of him. When we got to our seats he seemed to settle down but it didn’t last long. Our seats were under the top tier and when the crowd started to cheer the noise had nowhere to go. George didn’t like it. He really didn’t like it.
We quickly removed him and my wife spent the rest of the first half inside the stand playing with George. At half time we took a few pictures at pitch side for the family album. I wanted to record the moment when George surveyed his territory for the first time ahead of him captaining England to another crushing Grand Slam victory. It’s a dream that makes me happy! Despite the fact it meant missing her beloved London Irish, my lovely wife let me go back in for the second half while she took George outside to sit on the grass in the sunshine.
By the time the majestic Nick Evans had inspired Harlequins to overturn a 40-13 deficit and steal victory with minutes left on the clock, I was more than happy with our day. I bounced out of the stadium to find my wife grinning from ear to ear and brandishing her phone. A quick check of her photo gallery revealed a photo of her and George with former England captain and World Cup winner, Phil Vickery. She was delighted to not only spot him but to get in before anyone else did for a photo. Although George is unlikely to remember his first trip to HQ it will live long in my memory.
Next up on my 40 list is my attempt to run faster.
As I will be 40 next year I have decided to compile a list of things do before I hit the big 4-0. This is only part one of the list as I hope to add other stuff as it occurs to me. I plan to blog about each of these experiences as I tick them off as I go along. Here goes.
Cycle Alpe D’Huez – This is possibly the most famous climb in cycling but is an absolute beast – 21 hairpins with an average gradient of 8.1%, elevation gain of 1071m over 13km. I am not built for cycling so this will be a huge challenge and I am planning to take some fellow old gits with me to share the pain.
Dinner in a Michelin star restaurant with my wife – I really like the idea of the two of us getting dressed up and spending the evening somewhere more sophisticated than usual. I never get dressed up for anything and generally avoid places that are more formal. It doesn’t take much for my wife to look lovely so it’s about time I tried to match her. Also my wife has already been to two Michelin star restaurants and this might be a way of stopping her going on and on about it.
Harris’ on Harris – I have been promising to take my wife to the island of Harris in Scotland for years and now there are three of us in team Harris I think it is time. It looks like a beautiful place to go to and I won’t be able to resist the endless photo and lame joke opportunities it will offer. My cousin went to Harris a few years ago and quite frankly didn’t make enough of it.
Take the ultimate rollercoaster photo – My greatest triumphs were ‘The Vicars Tea Party’ and ‘Siege on the Big One’ but as I have no plans to grow up it is time to surpass these efforts. My favourite suggestion so far is to wear Jedward wigs but I’m sure there are plenty of other ideas we can explore. Update: new suggestion is Bolivian Pan pipe troupe with the guy at the front selling CDs.
Run faster – I have run (slowly) in a variety of races over the last four years from half marathons to off road mud fests like Hellrunner . I’ve always enjoyed them but I usually finish thinking ‘if I train harder I can run faster next time’. I’d like to take 10 minutes off my Hellrunner time and/or run a sub 2hr half marathon.
Take George to HQ – I want George to love rugby as much as me and plan to take him to plenty of games. This has to start with a trip to Twickenham so he can get used to the place for when he captains England to the grand slam.
Swim in the sea – Obviously this is something I have done before but I really love and don’t do it enough. The plan is to swim in the sea as many times as I can in the next year no matter what the weather throws at me.
Play rugby again – I stopped playing rugby 4 years ago after suffering two serious injuries in one season. I still really miss playing and would love a few more games before I hang up my boots for good. Not a popular item on my list but I hope I get to do it.
Thank you to everyone who posted ideas on my original post. I am still considering some of these especially the eating contest so please post any other ideas in the comments box below.
Later this year I will be 39 years old which means that next year I will hit the big 40. I have already been invited to my first 40th birthday party and there will be many more to come as all my friends pass this milestone. To celebrate I want to plan a series of challenges and activities with my friends and family over the next year or so. I have a few ideas but I want to hear yours.
The first idea on the list is cycle up the Alpe D’Huez – one of the great climbs of the Tour de France. The route is 14km long, contains 21 hairpins ascending to 1120 metres as you go. Easy huh?
Being a big bloke I am not built for cycling so this would be a major challenge for me. I have at least one companion who is willing to attempt it with me so hopefully this will also be motivation. If I am getting fitter I would also like to smash some running milestones like running a half marathon in under 2 hours.
There are limits to my physical abilities so I also want to do some fun stuff that I might not get to do very often or have always fancied. I used to enjoy taking posed rollercoaster photos like the one below and I really want to nail the ultimate photo once and for all.
I have seen plenty of bloggers, pinners and tweeters with bucket lists so now is the time to tell me your ideas. Either post your ideas in the comment box or tweet me. Go!