Thursday, 31 May 2012

The death of a blog...

A while ago I wrote a blog post about how I had decided to move my blog.
Stupidly, I appear to have posted this on the new blog.. but not the old one.
The blog post is HERE And the new blog site is
I do have a bit of an update on the previous post though that makes this post all the more appropriate. The journey from couch potato to Ironman is on hold.
Not cancelled.. just on hold.
There are personal reasons for this, if you wish to know what they are.. keep reading!
Ironman training takes a lot of time. I have a full time job and two young kids.
I work Monday to Friday, and I don't get to see my kids as much as I would like to. My wife works on a Saturday, so that's my day to be a full time Dad.. which I love.
This means that Sunday is our only family day together. I wish we had more time together as a family, but like everyone else we have bills to pay so we gotta work!
I think I wrote a post before on priorities, I wont bother looking for it or linking to it, but the key message is thus... Unless you're a professional athlete... Training is hugely important, but it shouldn't be a number one priority in your life.
Some people put work first. I put family first.
So, basically I don't have the time to put the hours in that are needed to complete an Ironman (properly). In fairness, I don't really have the time for half Ironman training.. but that's a point to discuss in a later posting over on the new blog
Does this bother me?
This year hasn't really been triathlon focused anyway. The first few months were all about boxing, which was an amazingly fun and completely different challenge. Ive been running fairly consistently, but not in a structured manner. I haven't really been on the bike at all, and I've been swimming once since the end of last season. At the moment I'm doing a bootcamp with a bunch of martial arts folks (again, the subject of a later blog post) and its also an amazingly fun challenge.
So this year is all about doing some new things and just having some fun. So, in short.. this blog is pretty much dead. All the content is now on the wordpress site and moving forward that is where I will be updating on what I am up to. I hope all you lovely readers will continue to follow my exploits there.

Friday, 23 March 2012

To err is human, to really screw up you need to be a runner.

The most common mistake beginner runners make is to do too much, too soon.
Its almost inevitable. Seriously... don't beat yourself up up over it.
You start out and its HARD going. Seriously hard. If you're following a plan like the one I started with or the one I hand on to many others to help them get started you will start out running 1 minute or less with long walking breaks.
Then after a while, running feels good.
Seriously.. you can run.. you've gone from couch to 5k, or from nothing to 30 minutes.. or whatever it is and suddenly YOU FEEL GOOD.
At the start it seemed like it would never happen but... You ENJOY running.

Little side note.. as a scientist...
What has actually happened here is that you have developed a level of cardiovascular fitness. Your heart has upped its game and is now able to support this insane new activity you are doing. Your heart is AMAZING. Seriously.. just as a little test.. take something in your hand, a soft ball or a ball of paper or something, and squeeze it tight, really clench your fist.
Do this 100 times..
If you get to 100 and its still easy, keep going.
What number do you get to? 150? 200?
Perhaps the muscles in your hand and forearm told you to stop at 50.. or even 20.
That activity, that clenching, is done by your heart 60-80 times per minute every minute of every hour of your entire life.
Seriously incredible huh?
Anyway.. the heart is starting from a much stronger base point than your puny little skeletal muscles, so its probably unsurprising that when you start running, it can up its game a little easier than anything else.

Back to the main story.
So.. running feels good. So you run further.. you run faster.. and you can do it. you can breathe.. you don't collapse and puke or want to die.
You CAN do it.
Thing is.. you cant really.
The original limiting factor for a total beginner is the cardio fitness. After a while the limiting factor becomes the skeletal muscles... the legs.
So its highly common for people to push to far, too fast to the point where they get hurt.

2 days ago I went out for my first run in a few weeks. During boxing training (all 8 weeks if it) i did very little running.. probably less than 10 miles per week.
The other night I went out and i was feeling great. My cardio fitness was spot on and after a very brief warm up I started flying down the road... I was doing a 6:30 minute mile for a bit, then I caught myself on and slowed down to an equally stupid 7:30 pace.
I only ran 4 miles, but at an 8 min mile pace overall.
After a long break.. I should have been running about 2 mins a mile slower than that to give the legs some time to get back into it.
But no... I didn't.. I hammered it, ran too fast and guess what?
Yeah my legs hurt like hell today.
So.. in short.. try not to do too much too fast. Try no to hurt yourself... but don't beat yourself up when you inevitably do.

Thursday, 22 March 2012

That ever illusive motivation...

Motivation is something I often struggle with.

I know a lot of people may be surprised by this, but let me put this into perspective..

When It comes to training and racing.. I'm a "mid-packer"
Basically, I run in the middle of the pack. I'm never going to win, but I will never come in last (I hope)
Ive no issue with this. I don't consider it mediocrity, I consider it standing proud among people who are great at what they do.
There are people in front of me who train harder and are who are naturally faster
There are people behind me who train less and are maybe just naturally a bit slower.
Of those that train harder... do they have more time? Do they have less commitments or responsibility? Or do they just have more motivation.
Its a combination of these things, combined with innate ability and many other factors.
I am fitter than a lot of people I know. The fact that I can go out and take part in an event that requires a certain level of fitness and skill, puts me in a group that is well apart from the majority of the population. Being in the middle of these folks is not mediocrity.

Saying all that, sometimes I struggle with motivation just as much as the person who does no exercise and sits on the couch all night watching TV, drinking wine and eating potato chips.
Oh.. wait... I AM that guy.

I post on here mostly about my athletic endeavours... but the truth is that getting out the door and training is a lot harder than buying a bottle of wine and hanging out on the sofa with my wife and watching a good movie.

In the long run though, going out and training is going to be more beneficial, plus I will feel a lot better the next morning. Sometimes though.. its still really hard to get out and do it. Ive blogged before on the importance of goals, and having something to train for is a real motivator. Sometimes though, its still hard.

I just thought I would share this thought.

This blog has become something I seldom post on, but a few peoples messages to me on the last post reminded me that not only do I enjoy writing blogs, people also enjoy reading them, so I'm going to try and write more often.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Fight Night

I always plan on writing these event based blogs straight after the event.
On the one hand perhaps I will better capture the post event thrill.. on the other hand I want to do it before I've talked to everyone about it already and told my story and got tired of saying it.
On the flipside, coming back to do this a few weeks later in the cold light of day probably has benefits too.. So here we go.

The fight night came around and it was a truly incredible experience.
I cant tell you now that physically, its like nothing Ive ever gone through before, and emotionally its certainly pretty high up the rankings too.
On the night of the fight we all arrived to the Europa hotel and had our briefing. We were brought to the function room that was set aside for us and we were led in to the ballroom where the ring was set up and we got to have a look around before anyone was brought in. The ring seemed smaller than I had expected, and the room seemed pretty damn big. At this point myself and Neil, my opponent, posed for a quick photo.

After this we went downstairs to wait as the spectators were brought in, then we were led in for the "Parade of Champions" we were all led into the room and into the ring and got to see the crowds. It was amazing, there were about 800 people all clapping and cheering. I climbed into the ring and looked around to find my wife and friends and was hugely relieved to find them. Then i was able to relax and take it all in. It was amazing. Such a buzz, and everyone else was the same. We were all grinning and clearly excited. Then, we were led back downstairs and the first fighters started warming up. Some of the guys chose to go upstairs to watch the earlier fights. I was up pretty early so I just stayed down in the room getting myself mentally and physically ready.

The preparation for this was weird. I'm used to racing and there are a range of emotions you can feel... Nervous, excited, eager etc etc. But the objective for me in a race is to do it, possibly to hit a time goal. Its not to win. This was a head to head battle and I needed to get into the ring wanting to win.

This was a completely new experience for me. I'm not a competitive person and am not really driven to be a "winner". Getting myself to a mental place where getting in there and winning was my objective was a very different experience.

As the time came closer to my fight, I started getting physically ready doing simple warmups. One of the trainers took me aside and did some pad work with me and I was starting to feel ready. Neil openly admitted that he was really nervous, and I think this gave me a bit of a mental edge. I wasn't nervous, I was ready to go. We were led upstairs and stood waiting to walk into the room. I heard my name being announced and I took the long walk to the ring to my entrance music which was "Solidarity" by "Enter Shikari". It was a good choice and I was totally ready to go. I stepped into the ring, walked to my corner and waited. The guys in my corner talked me up and got me ready and I tried not to be too overwhelmed by the music and the cheering crowds.

My opponent entered the ring, the ref called us forward, gave us our briefing and the bell rang and suddenly the crowds and the noise disappeared. For the duration of the fight there was just me and my opponent. It was incredible. We could have been in an empty room. It was just pure focus and it was very intense. The rounds were 1.5 minutes long, but in some ways they seemed to last an eternity. The breaks between the rounds were 1 minutes but they seemed to be mere seconds. The coaches in the corner were amazing. They briefed me after each round as to what I should be aiming to do for the next round, what my opponent was doing and where he was weak and What I needed to do to exploit that weakness.

Physically the fight was really tough. Anyone who has ever done an intense workout using a punchbag will know how hard it is. Being in the ring is like this but while being used as a punchbag at the same time. All the while trying to pay attention to what you are doing, where your guard is and what your opponent is doing. Throwing punches while avoiding them and hitting while being hit.

There were only three rounds, but by the third round I was totally wrecked. Getting out and fighting that last round was really tough. If i didn't have the base fitness from the running and triathlon training I don't know how I could have done it.. Pure adrenalin I suppose. I won the fight... but at the end of the day, we were both winners for going through the 8 weeks of training and having the balls to get into the ring in the first place. I managed to raise a good chunk of money (over £1200) for Aware Defeat Depression NI and that made it all worthwhile. My Just Giving page is still open so feel free to go and throw a few quid my way if you haven't already done so.

After we finished, we hit the bar and very much enjoyed the rest of the evening, watching the other fights and cheering on the other competitors. The whole experience was truly phenomenal from start to finish, all 8 weeks of it. I met some amazing people and made some good friends. I'm sorry its all over and am looking forward to the reunion of all the fighters, when we will get together, have a few drinks and watch the DVD of the fights. :D

As with the last blog.. the pics are courtesy of Nico Fell. Cheers Nico.

Friday, 9 March 2012

What a ride..... FIGHT NIGHT.

“Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming "Wow! What a Ride!”
- Hunter S. Thompson
The last 8 weeks have been crazy.
The training for the boxing has been intense and incredibly good fun.
Ive met an amazing bunch of people and literally enjoyed every minute of it.
They say all good things must come to and end, and in this case the end features me climbing into a ring and going toe to toe with one of the amazing people that Ive met.

The whole thing has been good fun and the camaraderie has been phenomenal.
For 3 rounds tomorrow night, that camaraderie will be put aside and myself and Neil Reid will go head to head and we will fight.

Its such a weird thought, but its going to be a fun and exciting night.
Neil and I have already agreed that the winner is buying the first round and we've already planned that the moment our fight ends there will be an immediate rush to the bar by Neil, myself and Nico Fell who has been doing the photography throughout and whose photos are above and below.

When I signed up to do this, I was nervous and apprehensive. I am doing this for charity and knew i was stepping outside my comfort zone.
While Ive been overwhelmed with how much fun its all been.. It certainly hasn't been easy. The training has been tough going. Its taken a lot of time and been a big demand and I can tell you.. the first night when I sparred and got hit hard in the head.. I seriously wondered what the hell I was doing. The phrase "I'm too old for this shit" was echoing through my head.

A few weeks on though, the worry has passed. Getting hit isn't that bad. I can take it, and I can hit back. I'm looking forward to the fight and I'm looking forward to pints with my opponent and the rest of the crew afterwards. I'm fighting early and I'm really looking forward to introducing my wife and mates to some of the other guys and girls from the training and us all having a bit of craic and watching the rest of the fights.

On top of all this, Ive managed to exceed my target for the charity... and am still hoping to get more. There is still plenty of time to visit my just giving page and to throw a few quid. For you UK folks, don't forget you can also donate by text. The text code is
ASTY50 £? to 70070
Just replace the ? with a number of your choice..

Thanks for your generosity and thanks for reading and thanks to Nico for the excellent photos.

Sunday, 15 January 2012

13 and Finish strong

Just finished the last of my 13 days of training in a row to kick off the new year.
On Friday, the thirteenth, I got the tattoo pictured above. Its nothing too deep or significant, more a bit of fun than anything else to be honest. Kinda fun to have got it done in the middle of this 13 day session.

The other day I was chatting to my boss who is training for his first marathon. He was asking for a few tips and one of the tips I gave him was something I've said to a good few people and something I try to do myself. Try and train to finish strong. Most people start out fast and strong and fall to bits at the end. Its a good idea to train yourself not to be like this. Finish strong in training and you'll finish strong in a race. Today I lived to to this myself by ensuring the last day of the 13 days training was my strongest and fastest run. It felt good.

Tomorrow I have a rest day then on tuesday night the boxing training starts. Dont forget to pop along to sponsor me!!!

Thursday, 12 January 2012

simple update

Just a quick update.
Off season is officially over. I'm planning the season out. Starting out with the boxing, then three half ironman. Distance then hopefully a marathon to finish the season.
The formal boxing training starts next week so until then I've kicked in my own base training to get a bit of shape and conditioning back.
The off season was too long and I've lost too much fitness, but I'm getting focused again. I've now trained 10 days in a row with bike, run and strength training sessions. I'm aiming to keep this little string of sessions going till Sunday totally 13 days in a row. After that I'll take one day off then the boxing training kicks in and I will definitely blog on how that goes :-)