Failure is not fatal

Two weeks on from our 7 Ironmans in 7 Days challenge and The FCG EPIC Week and the dust is starting to settle.

In the weeks leading up to the challenge Warren and I outlined in blog posts and talks to schools and businesses that this challenge had a high risk of failure due to the number of unknowns that we were unable to test during training, like the intense lack of sleep we would experience during the week. With the dust settling on the challenge I wanted to share my thoughts and experiences during each day of the challenge, and also share about the community impact of The FCG EPIC Week.

Day 1

Warren and I had set ourselves a minimum finish time on day 1, why would we do this? To avoid the excitement and adrenaline causing us to go out too fast on the bike or the run, this minimum finish time on day 1 was set at 15 hours. For me the swim went really well on day 1, I pulled out a personal best Ironman swim time of 1hr 8mins, I felt good and it felt a comfortable pace. The support we had on the swim was great. After the swim came our first nutrition test, making sure we would eat enough prior to the bike and stock up on food for during the bike. We were pretty unlucky with the weather on day 1 for the bike. Our route, laps of the west coast in Guernsey, meant we had 10 miles of a headwind and 10 miles of a tailwind. We had to make sure we weren’t pushing too hard into the wind and also keeping calm with the tailwind and not burning our legs out. The marathon on day 1 was a good one, Warren and I had slightly different strategies as we find that on multi-day endurance events you need to run at a pace that is comfortable for your running form and how you are feeling. We finished day 1 in 14hrs 45mins, just under our MINIMUM finish time of 15hrs. My stats from day 1 are below:

Day 1 thought of the day – “Body feels good, it’s the lack of sleep that we need to be careful of”

Day 2

5.00am alarm for breakfast…how was the body feeling? It was feeling ok, no niggles from day 1 and I felt ready to take on day 2. The swim again was really well supported with the Tri-Fitness team and others coming along for a paddle with us. The conditions on the swim again were good, the body was in a good place and I completed the swim in 1hr 15 mins. We were aiming for our transitions to be relatively swift but to balance that with ensuring we weren’t feeling rushed and we were taking on enough food before jumping on the bike. We were aware that the weather forecast on Tuesday was for rain later in the day and we thought we’d get away with it and complete the bike before the rain came. Again, the headwinds one way down the west coast felt brutal, and we had to manage the pace to not work too hard into the wind. With about 25 miles to go on the bike the weather changed, force 4-5 wind and driving rain, this gave us a choice. Continue at the steady pace and just accept that you’ll get cold or speed up and get the bike over with. Our decision was to accept that we would get cold and keep at the steady pace to avoid burning the legs. In hindsight this might have been the wrong choice.

The last 25 miles on the bike on Tuesday were cold and wet. We got back to our base and sat in our cars for 30 minutes with the heating on to just warm up and stop shivering. This was essential as it was still raining and we had the marathon to go and needed to go out as warm and as fresh as possible. Louise had done a great job on social media of getting support runners on such a grim evening, we must have had over 20 people run with us across the evening, a wet and windy 26.2 miles. Day 2 was finished in 16hrs 10mins, the impact of the weather on the bike and the slow transition from bike to run added a good hour to the day.

Day 2 thought of the day “There are some wonderful human beings in Guernsey, to come out in this weather and support us, incredible” 

Day 3

The number of hours sleep was gradually decreasing and days were getting a little longer. Yet again we had a wind that would be a challenge on the bike, however the direction meant that the swim in Havelet bay was calm. More support turned out again for the swim, day 3 for me was a 1hr 16mins swim, I was pleased to only be 1 minute slower than day 2, the body was going well. Warren had a really tough swim, he was pulled out with about 1000mtrs to go due to experiencing extreme cold and may have been on the verge of hypothermia. I put his down to the lack of sleep and the body / immune system starting to struggle to regulate the core body temperature in the sea. Warren’s condition meant we were about 30 mins late on to the bike, and with the headwind we would struggle to make up any significant time…it was looking like it would be a long day. I need to make a point here about Warrens’ mental strength, how he recovered so well from such a bad condition post-swim was very impressive. I was worried for the first hour on the bike but he bounced back to produce a strong ride. We sometimes talk about game changers during training, these can often be mindset changes or simple tweaks to the training schedule. On day 3 we had what felt like a game changer on the bike. After 36 miles we stopped for a coffee…caffeine was part of our nutrition for the week but sitting down for 5 mins in a cafe and drinking a coffee gave us both a mental and physical break. Day 3 weather on the bike was yet again headwinds one way on the west coast loop, and it was our longest day on the bike with a ride of 8hrs 20mins.  This meant we made it back to Havelet, our transition base, at around 5:30pm, we knew this could lead to a post 11pm finish that day.

As I was getting changed for the run I felt I had two options, the first was to run a comfortable marathon and finish the day at about 11pm or push the marathon a little and aim to finish around 10:20pm / 10:30pm in order to start the recovery process earlier. The legs were going to feel tired whether I ran a 5hr or 4hr 30min marathon so I decided to push on and pick up the pace on day 3. I never thought I’d say this but to have some mates run with me in y-fronts pushed me and inspired me to complete the day 3 marathon in 4hrs 20mins. Yet again it was humbling and inspiring that people were giving up their time to come and swim, bike or run with Warren and I. Whether it was 30 mins or 4hrs, this made a huge difference. Day 3 for me finished just before 10:30pm meaning I could begin the recovery process and get to bed before midnight!

Day 3 thought of the day “It’s ok to treat yourself and remember to enjoy it – that coffee stop was bliss” 

Day 4

After just under 5 hours sleep I’d woken up worrying about Warren…not something I thought would happen at 5am! Warren messaged me at about 4:30am to day that he was not going to swim on day 4 as this was the only way that he would get close to completing the week. This was a tough read, but for his own safety I knew he had made the right decision on day 4. After washing each mouthful of breakfast down with water (as the body was not enjoying eating breakfast at 5am for the 4th day in a row) I made my way down to Havelet. I was greeted with about 25 swimmers who had all come down to join us on the swim, the was incredible and a much needed boost. It felt like another good swim, in near perfect conditions, a little slower than previous days at 1hr 19mins but the body felt good. By the time the swim had finished Warren was as Havelet and was looking fresh, it was good to see him despite him telling me to get a move on and to get on the bike. We had also had a shift in the weather (only lasted 24hrs) and day 4 saw a drop in the winds to a force 2/3. It was a good day on the bike, we hit our target pace time of 7hrs 30 mins (averaging 14.9 mph) but looking back at the data we realised that the pacing was a little erratic. Rather than consistently hitting 14.9mph we found ourselves jumping up to 17mph for a period, then easing off to 13.5mph for another period – a lesson learnt in pacing. Yet again we had great support on the bike with cyclists joining us all throughout the day. Timings on day 4 were working well for us, we were on the run at 5:30pm, which meant if we ran well the finish time wouldn’t be too late.

I had a real mental battle during the first 4-5 miles of the run, I had to convince myself that I could complete the day 4 marathon. For the first 50 minutes it was literally one step at a time and to avoid focusing on 26.2 miles and to focus on small goals. I need to make a public apology here to Jim Mallet and an other runner that joined me 3 miles in, they were great and really chatty but I just needed to be quiet, to listen to conversations and focus on the next short goal. At mile 5 I poured a bottle of cold water over my head, realised that I had it in me to finish the day, had amazing support around me and I was back in the room. At the end of the first lap I apologised to the support runners and confirmed that the “lights were back on” and I could now think about enjoying the run a mile at a time and having some great people run with me. I completed the day 4 marathon in 4hrs 48mins, and thankfully finished the day before 11pm which meant I could get to bed just after midnight!

Day 4 thought of the day “Remember to break the challenge down to small goals, mile to mile, lamppost to lamppost”

Day 5

Ah, day 5…the day I call the hard butter day. My day 5 literally started with a meltdown. Up for breakfast at 5am, planning a mixture of toast, avocado, smoothie and fruit. As I go to butter my toast there is no butter in the kitchen, only a new pack of Guernsey Butter in the fridge…and it was harder than a brick. Now any human operating on normal sleep levels would have found an easy way to soften the butter…but I was not in that place. I began to breakdown and cry over the lack of soft butter for my toast. After recovering from the butter incident I made my way to Havelet, a song came on in the car and I began to cry again…what was happening. As I turned up at Havelet a good friend, Emily Bookless, asked me how I was doing as I got out of the car…I started crying again! Mike Ward, who was a star (and Mother Superior) during the week came over to me and explained that getting all emotional happens when you do multi-day ironman events. He explained that anything can set-you off and that was the exact position I found myself in. Warren was back for the swim on day 5 and it was great to have him back in the game on the swim. The day 5 swim felt ok but I had to adjust my route slightly as the further we got out of Havelet Bay the waters were more choppy and getting the arms above the chop was more of a challenge.

The other challenge I faced during the swim was my mind starting to focus on the bike. Why the hell did I allow myself to do this? This is one of the major lessons we have learnt over the past few years, deal with what is immediately  in front of you and don’t think about the long game. With almost every stroke I was battling with my mind as to whether I could complete 112 miles on the bike. I finished the swim in 1hr 15mins, and as I made my way to the car to eat and get changed for the bike I said to Warren “I don’t know if I can do the 112 miles on the bike today”…his reply was just what I needed to hear. A simple “let’s just get on the bike, move forward and see what happens”. So that is what we did, we got own the bike, albeit about 30 minutes later than we wanted to be but we just started to move forward. I probably spent the first 60 minutes moaning about everything but then realised that I needed to snap out of it and get myself back to a positive perspective and enjoy the day. We enforced a full on meal stop on day 5, which meant 20 minutes of sitting down at Vistas Cafe and eating two sausage rolls and chips, crisps, chocolate and a coffee.

By about 70 miles into the ride Warren was really suffering from the lack of sleep. Some of our support riders could see that he was becoming a little unsteady on the bike. As we reached Pembroke on one of our laps Warren took 10 minutes out to have a power nap, he demanded that I carried on to complete lap 4 of the route. I was pleased to see Warren heading in the opposite direction after his power nap. With about an hour to go on the bike I could feel my mind going so I stopped off at a cafe for a double espresso to give me a much needed boost. Warren and I joined each other at about mile 85 and this is when Warren made one of the toughest decisions he has had to make, his challenge was over. Warren was looking shattered and was basically falling asleep on the bike, not a safe place to be in. Warren rode back to base and after composing myself I went on to complete the last 20 miles of the bike – this was tough 20 miles. Moving time on the bike on day 5 was just over 8hrs but with the food stop and the stops with Warren I didn’t make it back to base until about 6pm. I was greeted with a decent number of support runners and found myself apologising as I knew I needed some time before heading off for the run. I was further delayed when I had no running socks in my bag, so my wife drove home to get me some as I didn’t want to risk running in cycling socks! I eventually started running just after 7pm. What was the approach and target on the run? Chatting away to Jon Press (who was completing his own challenge of 7 marathons in 7 days) the aim was to complete the marathon that day, so a pre-midnight finish.

The support on the Friday night was amazing, at one point here must have been 35 to 40 runners in the group, a privilege to run with so many people. I needed two emergency toilet stops on laps 1 and 2, these were taken in the Red Lion pub, the Friday night revellers were amazing, cheering me in and out of the pub and handing me donations to the charities. One of my younger sisters flew into Guernsey to support the challenge and joined me for 10km on the run, the first time she had ever run 10km in her life, this type of support kept me going! Laps 3 and 4 began to pick a little in the legs, the pace slowed but we kept running and kept moving forward. One of the highlights was to have Warren turn up on the final two miles and play the Rocky soundtrack out of his car next to us…absolute comedy gold!  I finished the marathon on day 5 in 4hrs 34 mins, and got back to base at 12:10am. I made it up to see Paul Gosling and Guthrie Steer at about 12:20am, I wasn’t in bad shape at all physically and asked them to just get me to the start line for day 6. I got to bed at 2:00am and was already wondering what impact 3 hrs would have on day 6.

Day 5 thought of the day “People really don’t know how much the support helps us get through the tough times”

Day 6

This was probably the toughest mornings I have experienced since taking on endurance challenges. After 3 hours sleep I woke up feeling physically good but the accumulation of the lack of sleep was impacting me. I was slow eating breakfast, confused answering questions that Louise was asking as she was helping me get my kit ready and beginning to feel a little overawed by the day ahead. I had to shift my thinking back to just getting through each discipline, one step at a time. I arrived at Havelet for the swim just before 6.30am, again the support was immense, about 20 swimmers to join me for the planned 3.8km. The route was similar to previous days, 2 big loops around Havelet Bay or 3 shorter loops depending on the swell / chop as we went further out to sea. The first 500mtrs felt ok, I was just concentrating on my stroke technique and breathing. We stopped at a buoy and the support team and my wife checked on me, I was doing ok. As we set-off to the next marker something shifted, my body felt absolutely drained and concentrating on technique and just moving forward became a huge mental battle.

I stopped again after 200mtrs, set-off again, made it another 500mtrs and then stopped. I took my goggles off and looked at my wife, she gave me a look that said “it’s over, you’re done” I told her to look away as I gathered my thoughts. I headed back towards the beach thinking that if I make it there then I can maybe approach the rest of the swim 100mtrs at a time. As I got to shallow waters, with half the swim completed I had nothing left to give. The accumulation of the lack of sleep had defeated me. A total of 20hrs sleep across 5 nights had pushed me to my limit. I turned round to my wife and just said “I have nothing left to give”. They were the words I feared during the last 6 months. Being open and honest, I felt devastated. To work towards something and sacrifice so much for 18 months of training it felt horrible to realise that the challenge was over after 5 Ironmans in 5 days. As I got to my car I decided to phone Warren as I wondered if he would have any words of wisdom that may help me get back into the challenge and finish the swim. As I explained the swim to him in tears he simply said “You’re done mate”…my reply was a firm “is that the best bloody pep talk you have mate?”. I knew, he knew, my wife knew it. Game over. Safety comes first.

As I sat in the car, on my own, reflecting on what the body was telling me I went through lots of lots of scenarios, including going back out in the water to finish the swim and to get own the bike and pedal. But I was told that I would have been a danger to myself and others had I made it onto the bike.

Day 6 thought of the day “Failure is not fatal”

Warren and I knew that this challenge had a high chance of failure, despite many thinking we would cruise through it due to our history with endurance challenges, this one pushed us to our limits, we found them and we were beaten by the lack of sleep. But thankfully failure does not define us and success for us was not defined by completing one, three, five or seven Ironmans, success for us was driven by what we wanted to achieve from our challenge and the community event – The FCG EPIC Week. We wanted to:

  1. Raise money for our chosen charities This Is EPIC and Guernsey Mind
  2. Inspire the local community to push themselves with their own 7 day epic challenge
  3. Get as many school children participating and active during The FCG EPIC Week

As we begin to take in what happened during the week both from a personal and community level it is helping focus on what we did achieve rather than what we didn’t.

  1. We are still counting but we have now raised over £25,000 for the charities
  2. We had over 160 people sign up to the FCG EPIC Week, and loads more join Warren and I each day own the swim, bike or the run sections
  3. We had three primary schools get fully behind the week, which meant around 1000 children were active for the week.

One thing that Warren and I talk about from our endurance challenges is to enjoy the process of taking on a huge goal and enjoy the journey of being the best you can be. During the FCG EPIC Week we simply gave people the opportunity to set themselves a new challenge for the 7 days. To have over 160 people commit to this challenge was fantastic. To have 1000 primary school children be active during the week with all sorts of challenges was amazing. Warren and I spent hours after our challenge catching up on social media posts, pictures and messages from peoples challenges. We are so humbled by what everyone has achieved. Well done Guernsey.

A huge thank you to everyone that made not only our challenge but the FCG EPIC Week possible, the team is too big to mention (and we’ll probably miss a name or two by accident!). A huge thank you goes to First Central Group for being an amazing headline sponsor and getting behind the event with such passion.

 

Roll on My EPIC Week 2018! 

 

Day one of our FCG My EPIC Week. Meet our EPIC Challengers!

 

It’s Day One and we have already heard from some of the fantastic people taking part in the FCG My EPIC Week. We’ll be hoping to keep you inspired in your own challenges by sharing their stories.

Our first post comes from Dawn Sealey. Thanks for your support, Dawn, and best of luck with your challenge!

Can you tell us a little about you?

I’m a working mum with a three-year-old boy, Jack. I started running after he was born. I’ll never be the fastest runner (in fact I’m frequently at the back of the pack) but I appreciate the good health and good friends running affords me. After a traumatic start to my son’s life, running also helps keep me sane and my husband has been known to gently suggest I go for a run when I’ve got a case of the mean reds! As an extra challenge, and so that I might participate in triathlons, I decided to learn to swim properly earlier this year and just over a month ago swam my first ever full length of front crawl (well a type of front crawl anyway!!). I’m doing a couple of swimming lessons a week now and it’s slow progress but a great feeling of accomplishment to be learning a new skill at this old age.

I’m also inspired by my son – there is nothing more heart-melting than when he puts on his trainers and announces to me he’s off out for a run (don’t worry I never let him get too far).

What is your challenge and why have you chosen it?

My challenge is to complete a half Ironman distance across the week. I wanted a tough challenge to push myself but also one where I could involve and inspire as many people as possible to join me on either a run, swim or cycle and fit it around work and family. I have colleagues, friends and family joining me throughout the week on various sessions and I’m hoping Jack will do a few with me too. The organisation alone of fitting in all these sessions is one of the biggest challenges.

What training have you been doing?

I’m still running a couple of times a week and in addition to the swimming lessons I’ve been trying to fit in some cycling, mostly commuting.

What inspired you to take part in the FCG My EPIC Week?

I’ve followed Phil and Warren’s challenges over the least few years and they did a talk at my offices (GFSC) which inspired many of us to push ourselves but also explained how the charity was benefitting communities in a real way. This is EPIC and Guernsey Mind are both amazing charities and myself and my colleagues are always happy to support them in any way we can.

Have you taken part in any previous EPIC Challenges?

I took part in the Kings Mills run and the Y-Front Run and my husband and I did the family run with the buggy before EPIC 12. It is starting to sound like I’m stalking them!

Standing shoulder to shoulder

When I stood in front of group after group of This Is EPIC, village savings and loans members in January with Philip in the depths of rural Uganda I promised to stand shoulder to shoulder with them to do what I/we can provide the tools/education so they are empowered to improve their lives. At least it’s what I think I said – you could never be too sure with Joseph our director in Uganda who was translating not sure he ever actually said what we said!

 

Those words have kept me honest and been my rocket fuel when training got tough (which has been a lot) or listening to those people who thought this fundraising attempt was too hard and ambitious. I am accountable for those simple words which means I have to do everything in my power using the few skills I possess to raise money to keep the groups going and start up new ones.

 

This isn’t a challenge or holiday for me, which “happens” to raise money and awareness for charity. It all starts with the charity as that is the primary purpose for doing this. This has been such a hard journey to just get to the start line, but surely it can’t be harder than the daily struggle the people I met in Uganda face just to get through each day and survive.

 

I will remember the joy in their hearts and their songs of hope for improving their children’s lives. The children’s faces as they looked at us as someone with the power to change their lives.

 

How could I give up when so much hangs in the balance?

 

I need to remember these moments and the purpose because there will be times when I feel like it’s not worth it and I have taken on too much. But if Philip and I and everyone else taking on their own challenges in The FCG EPIC Week are successful it will be so worth it for the positive impact it will have.

 

Hopefully this will be our butterfly moment, which will cause a hurricane of positivity.

 

Watch this clip to see the joy from the people we met when they saved for the first time after joining a This Is EPIC savings and loans group

 

 

 

Topowa (#NeverGiveUp)

A high chance of failure…

Orchard PR - 2472 - Epic Challenge

One thing we have noticed in recent conversations is often people talk to us about our 7 Ironmans in 7 Days challenge as if we have already completed it or that it’s a guarantee that we will complete it. On one side we’re humbled that we (appear to) inspire confidence in people about our ability to take on endurance challenges, but on the other side we want people to understand that this challenge carries with it a huge chance of failure.

With previous challenges, which have been all based on running, we knew things could go wrong, and they did, like broken treadmills, sore knees, sore ankles and kicking door frames. But we learnt to suck it, breath it in and keep moving forward. With this challenge we are bringing in two completely new disciplines and the mechanical element with the bike.

To recap the distances, an Ironman distance triathlon is:

  1. 2.4 mile swim (152 lengths of Beau Sejour Pool) 
  2. 112 miles on the bike (a long way 🙂 )
  3. 26.2 mile run (a marathon)

Each discipline has some big risks associated to it, and as the week goes on we have the accumulation of fatigue and likely to be operating on approx. 4 to 6 hrs sleep each night as the week goes on. Whilst we have completed thousands of hours of training over the past 17 months, this challenge has only been completed once by someone in the UK. What we have been unable to test in training is the level of fatigue combined with the lack of sleep. We have been extremely detailed in our training and that has contributed to us going through the past 17 months completely injury free, and whilst we have been training for circa 20hrs per week for the past 6 months, each ironman has the possibility of taking us 15 to 18 hours each day!

We believe this challenge is going to push us to our limits…and possibly beyond them. Each day we will be completed 140.6 miles. To put that into perspective, our first challenge of 7 Marathons in 7 Days was a total of 183.4 miles FOR THE WHOLE WEEK.

Are we confident? I’m not sure its confidence, but we have sacrificed so much over the past 17 months and believe in the causes we are supporting that this will drive us on and will push us over the finish line each day. The support from the community and the donations will also drive us on. So when you see us during our EPIC week we really would appreciate a cheer, a toot, a high-five and to have some money thrown at us towards our causes.

You can read about how the money raised will change lives and donate online via DONATE HERE

#NeverGiveUp

2 Weeks to Go

Two weeks today Warren and I will be taking on our toughest endurance challenge to date; 7 ironman distance triathlons in 7 days. After 18 months of training we are now tapering, which means we are significantly reducing our weekly training from around 20 hrs per week to less than 10 hours per week. Lots of people have been asking us our daily schedule, so hear is a summary of our daily plan as people are welcome to swim, bike and run with us each day.

6:30am

2.4 mile swim at Havelet Bay

8:00am to 8:30am

112 mile bike ride, out from Havelet, laps of Pembroke to Pleinmont and then back to Havelet

4:00pm to 5:00pm

26.2 mile run, 4 laps from Havelet to The Bridge (just past Guernsey Electricity) and back. 

 

If the weather isn’t kind to us with the sea conditions we have back up options of Pembroke, Les Amarreurs and Cobo. If we have to change our routes we will post out updates on social media.

We will have live tracking each day and we’ll be sharing details of the prior to our EPIC week.

If you believe in the purpose behind our challenge, to help people overcome poverty in Africa and help support people in Guernsey with Mental Health issues, you can donate via https://race-nation.com/sponsor/t/3142 

 

#NeverGiveUp 

 

Active for 105 hours out of 168 hours

Stupidly Warren and I worked out some stats for our EPIC7 challenge of taking on 7 Ironmans in 7 Days. With just one month to go until we start our challenge it is becoming very real, and we now have a mix of excitement and fear. Excitement that after 17 months of training we are nearly at the foot of our mountain and we get to take on our challenge, and fear that there is a huge risk that this one may beat us.

Many people have asked us in recent days how long each Ironman may take us, many are shocked when we explain that we expect each Ironman to take us around 15 to 16 hours. What we don’t know at this stage is the impact on our times the build up of fatigue will have. When we took 7 marathons in 7 days in 2014 we full expected to get slower as the week went on, but our times were really interesting. We were faster on days five, six and seven than days three and four.  You would think that multi-day endurance events will naturally cause you to slow down as time goes on, but what we found with the Marathons is the body adapted as the week went on. Will this happen with the 7 Ironmans? We really don’t know, but what we do know is that we are attempting to meticulously plan the timings and pace across the week.

We are setting ourselves a minimum finish time for day one. We fully expect the adrenaline to be pumping on day one and there is a good chance that we will go out of the blocks too fast, especially on the bike, which could ruin us for the run and impact the rest of the week. With each Ironman expecting to take us around 15 hours, we will be active for a minimum of 105 hours across the 168 hours in the week. That leaves just under 1/3 of the week to eat, recover and sleep.

We regularly get asked “What if one day takes you longer than planned and you only get a couple of hours sleep?” – the simple answer is that we will just have to crack on, whether we have had 4 hours or 2 hours sleep, the approach remains the same.

At a very high level we are planning the following timings:

  1. SWIM – expect to start each day between 6:15am and 6:45am each day
  2. BIKE – expect to be on the bike at 8:00am and finish around 4:00pm to 4:30pm each day
  3. RUN – expect to be starting the run between 4:30pm and 5:00pm each day

Now, we have to caveat the above that it all could go out of the window on day one, but that is our high-level plan. We are going to be active well over 60% of the week, with the Marathons we knew that event on a bad day we would still finish by 2:00pm, on a bad day with EPIC7 we could be finishing at midnight, with the need to be awake and ready to go again at 5am for breakfast!

When you look at the stats of how many hours we will be active during the week it is easy to allow it to feel like an impossible challenge. It is easy to begin to over think and worry about the lack of sleep across the week and the additional fatigue this could/will cause. We know it is going to be tough, we are fully expecting to be getting nowhere near the sleep we require, so we can just avoid focusing on that element and focus on the purpose for taking on the challenge and calling on the 17 months of training we have under our belts.

4 weeks to go. Two more weeks of full training (20hrs a week) and two weeks of tapering. It’s close.

You can support the charities we are raising money for by donating at https://race-nation.com/sponsor/t/3142

#NeverGiveUp

Endurance challenges and nutrition

A question that Warren and I regularly get asked is about nutrition. Over the past few years of taking on our EPIC Challenges and other events such as Marathons and running the Saffrey’s Walk, you have to focus on getting your approach to nutrition right. Nutrition is a very subjective topic, it comes down to what is right for you and your event, so what we share about in this post may not be the perfect approach for everyone, but it may give people some tips and lessons for their own events and challenges.

The daily calorie intake numbers often thrown about are 2500kcal per day for a man and 2000kcal for a woman each day. To give you an idea of our current position with under 8 weeks to go until the challenge is a daily intake of circa 4000kcal to 5000kcal per day. This can be a challenge in itself, simply including that number of calories in your daily intake. Unfortunately, it’s not a case of just throwing whatever you want down your throat, we’re not on a diet of malteser’s and ice cream. Our approach to nutrition is to focus on the right calories, ones that will give us energy to complete training without risking falling off a cliff in terms of energy levels. For us this has been a balance of carbohydrates (including complex carbs such as sweet potato, wholegrain rice and green vegetables) and protein such as eggs, chicken, beef, tuna. To add to this we are also using protein powder in nutri-bullets for extra calories. This is then ‘topped up’ with additional daily intake of fats (some good some not so good :-)) and unrefined sugars (like Maple Syrup on porridge!).

To incorporate that level of calorie intake every day during training we have moved from the traditional 3 meals a day to simply eating all through the day. It is a case of constantly grazing in-between the main meals, nuts, flapjacks, fruit etc, it is all on the grazing list.

When we take on the 7 Ironmans in 7 Days we expect to be burning anywhere between 7000kcal and 10,000kcal each day. Simply fuelling adequately each day is going to be a challenge in itself. Our 17 months of training has had to also incorporate nutrition training. If we get that wrong during EPIC7 we are going to be in a whole world of trouble and it could be impossible to try and play catch up with the calories. We have had to use our lessons learnt from 7 Marathons in 7 Days and EPIC48 with our approach to EPIC7, however this challenge does feel like it is on a complete new level. Our training has had to include testing all elements of nutrition, and this includes hydration! We have had to put ourselves in scenarios similar to the challenge to discover what works and what doesn’t. For example, we recently completed two half-ironman brick sessions on two consecutive days. This involved a 56 mile bike ride followed immediately by a 13.1 mile run, two days in a row. Just under 6 hrs of moving time gave us a great environment to test nutrition, we also spent 6 hours on our turbo trainers in St Peter Port on Liberation Day. The Liberation Day ride was a good test for me, I took in a bowl of pasta, as well as other food, but I could not stomach the pasta at all. A good lesson learnt that whilst out on the bike, solid food like pasta isn’t going to work for me.

For EPIC7 we believe we are going to be looking at the following approach in terms of target calorie intake:

  • Breakfast – 2000kcals
  • Transition 1 (Swim to Bike) – 1000kcal to 2000kcal
  • Fuel every 45 mins to 1 hour on the bike 
  • Transition 2 (Bike to Run) – 1500kcal to 2000kcal
  • Fuel every 10km on the run
  • Overnight Recovery – 2500kcal to 4000kcal 

Hydration is really important, in fact it will be crucial for Warren and I as we are taking on the challenge in the middle of the summer, which means we could be cycling and running in temperatures well over 20deg. Hydration for us isn’t just about drinking enough during a session, it has become like an obsession throughout the day. The trick with hydration is to keep at it constantly, for the big sessions we often use coconut water, electrolytes and salt replacement drinks alongside water.

All of the above may not work for everyone, but if we think the following 3 tips are crucial when approaching nutrition for a long distance event or challenge.

  1. Don’t wait until you are hungry to eat – playing catch up is not going to be successful. I set my watch to beep at me every 45 mins on long bike rides or runs to remind me to eat.
  2. Test scenarios in training – create opportunities to test new foods and drinks, that is what training is for. Don’t leave it until the challenge or event to see what works and what doesn’t.
  3. Beware of overdoing it with energy drinks and bars – try to keep it as natural as possible with the occasional inclusion of an energy based drink or snack.

Our EPIC challenge of 7 Ironmans in 7 days

This summer we are taking on our biggest endurance challenge to date. We will be attempting 7 Ironman Distance Triathlons in 7 days as part of The FCG EPIC Week. We are using the word ‘attempting’ as this challenge is filling us with fear. Our previous challenges have been tough, there is no doubt about that, but with running we have found that with purpose fuelling us we have found a way of breaking through the dark times and pushing on to complete our challenges. This challenge brings in two completely new disciplines, one of which we could hardly do in 2015, which was swimming. This all came from a Smith / Mauger holiday in 2015 when we were banned from taking our running kit on holiday…so we started swimming and by the end of the holiday we had decided on our next endurance challenge.

There is much that can go wrong with this challenge, the main one being the body simply giving up due to exhaustion from the amount of time we will take to complete each Ironman distance triathlon. Each day the Ironman could take anything from 15 to 20 hours to complete. Each evening we will need to spend time getting massages, ice baths, re-fuelling with approx 7,000 calories and then trying to get some sleep before going again the next day.

An Ironman Triathlon consists of 2.4 mile swim, which (weather permitting) will be in Havelet Bay, a 112 mile bike ride, which will see us cycle up and down the the west coast, and to finish, a 26.2 mile marathon run which will cover four laps from Havelet to Vale Castle. We will repeat this route every day for 7 days, totalling a massive 984.2 miles for the whole week.

We will take on this challenge on Monday 10 to Sunday 16 July 2017 during which the local community will be taking part in their own challenges for The FCG EPIC Week. We are hoping to raise £7,777 towards the final fundraising figure of the The FCG EPIC Week. All money raised will be going directly to Guernsey Mind and This Is EPIC Projects.

Over the past 15 months we have clocked up over 2,000 hours of training. Swimming over 600km, cycled more than 14,000km and run over 6,000km combined. We have got to be honest, there have been many times were we have felt broken and that we have bitten off more than we can chew. Fitting in around 15-20hrs a week or training alongside family and running our own businesses has pushed us to the brink mentally and physically. But, we are so focused on completing this challenge, some would say obsessed. We are now 9 weeks out from the event and our training is at its peak in terms of effort and time. Most days start at around 5:30am and we regularly incorporate two training sessions into each day. On Liberation Day if you head to Market Square you will see us on our Turbo Trainers and you can find out more about our challenge and also sign-up to The FCG EPIC Week and take on your own challenge.

We continue to use these events as a vehicle to raise money for local charities and causes, this challenge is no different, We are raising money as part of The FCG EPIC Week for Guernsey Mind and to change people’s lives through This Is EPIC which works with projects in Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. We’ve also learnt that by taking part in big challenges, it hopefully inspires and gives confidence to the Guernsey community to take on their own challenges and push themselves no matter the distance or challenge.

Yet again we have an amazing team around us, led by our wives. This would not happen without their support and encouragement. The team at Tri-Fitness have been invaluable with their coaching and training advice, Ian Browns Cycle Shop have supported us with advice on the bikes to buy and are providing mechanical support during the week and Huub Design, the UK’s leading Triathlon kit manufacturer is supporting us with wetsuits, cycling kit and running kit for the week.

It all comes back to purpose. We’re putting out bodies and minds in some very dangerous places to help others. We have seen so many lives change from previous challenges and we want to see that happen again with this challenge. Your donations and support are so appreciated and will keep us going through the dark times of our challenge, of which we are sure there will be many. Thank you and #NeverGiveUp 

CLICK HERE TO DONATE TO EPIC7

But still, like air, I’ll rise.

“You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.”

An extract from Maya Angelou’s poem “Still I Rise”, a poem about triumph over adversity. Yesterdays’ training sessions felt like a triumph over adversity. As Warren and I move towards a consistent 20 hours per week of training we are taking it one day at a time. For me, training yesterday felt like it was trying to destroy me, both mentally and physically. Every day takes meticulous planning as to when to fit the training into the diary. Normally, for me, it’s a 5:30am start with a bike (Turbo or outside) or run session, a lunchtime swim, then another bike or run session either early evening or when the kids are in bed.

We are now decreasing intensity, meaning that the sessions should be in heart rate Zone 2 and pretty comfortable to avoid too much fatigue. This is also expected to be close the pace and intensity that we will be doing during the challenge, it’s definitely an endurance challenge and not a sprint!

There are days when Warren and I chat to each other and we mutter the words “have we bitten off more than we can chew?”  There are days when it feels like we have but those moments of doubt are replaced by the purpose, the why behind our challenges. There is no way that we could put our bodies and minds through this pain if it was just for us, the purpose has to be something bigger than ourselves. That’s how we dig in, suck it up and keep moving forward.

The message from Warren today as we were aiming to meet up on the bike read “I’m heading back along the coast. Hating today.” Thankfully the purpose is greater than ourselves so we are able to press on despite feeling battered by our training regime.

A good reminder of the purpose today was receiving an update on the new classroom being built in St Leonia School in Kyotera, Uganda, thanks to the support of the Guernsey community. Children are now going to school, parents are being empowered to work hard for a brighter future and people once in poverty are now prospering. That makes the pain and hurt of our training worth it.

EPIC7 Training: You may want to try and break us down with hard miles, you may want to drive us to quitting with tiredness every day, you may want to get the better of us so we quit…

BUT…still…like air, we rise.

March Training Statistics for Philip

23

Miles Swam

873

Miles Cycled

120

Miles Run

An All Consuming Challenge

To think that this journey started with our wives banning our running trainers during a 2015 holiday (yes I am in double trouble for this opening statement). Anyone remember this picture…we replaced the trainers with goggles for 7 days and haven’t looked back.

In recent weeks we have hit several moments when you realise that you are breaking down your training sessions into one session at a time. It is in those moments when you realise your next challenge is an all consuming challenge, physically and mentally.

Warren and I have now been training for our next challenge since February 2016. We’re just over 12 months into training and we 123 days until the start of the challenge. Many people have guessed what our next challenge is, we’re not going to announce it formally for another few of weeks as put in place the final elements of kit and equipment sponsorship.

Training has ramped up in recent weeks, we have gone from approx 10 hours a week up to 15 hours a week. This basically means:

  1. Early mornings
  2. Late nights
  3. Balancing quality and quantity of training sessions
  4. Learning more and more about body management
  5. Learning more and more about nutrition
  6. Pushing our bodies and minds into new areas of pain.

The best way to describe the challenge we are taking on is all consuming.  Our previous challenges, 7 marathons in 7 days and running on a treadmill for 48hrs, have been tough but they feel light years away from where we are with our next challenge.

NEVER in our training for the previous challenges did we have to break down training sessions into one day at a time. We’d have our plan, usually around 80 to 100 miles per week at peak times and we would churn out the miles.

With our training for EPIC7 we are taking it one day at a time. The sessions are tough, we usually have double days, combining a swim and run or bike, and at the weekend we pull out longer sessions, starting very early to ensure we still get time with the families over the weekend.

What I haven’t been prepared for is the mental challenge that training is bringing. The previous challenges had their dark moments and difficult training sessions, but this challenge feels like it is taking the pressure to another level.

There is little rest for both the body and the mind, but I guess that is all part of the preparation for the challenge in July. There is such a high risk of failure with this challenge. We’ve a far amount of online research and can only find 2 people in the UK/Europe that have completed the challenge – that’s how big and crazy it is.

With 123 days to go until we start the challenge we are now breaking down the training sessions a day at a time. We have Russ and Paul at Tri Fitness supporting us at this stage by reviewing our training performance and stats. This is eye opening for me, as a runner I am only usually interested in distance, pace per mile and cadence. Now, I’m looking at Heart Rate Zones,  SWOLF, Cadence on the run and cadence on the bike, and my TSS (Training Stress Score) numbers.

TSS has been developed by Training Peaks, they use several physiological metrics to quantify the training stress of a particular workout or portion of a workout. Calculating a TSS number basically takes into account the duration and intensity of a workout to arrive at a single estimate of the overall training load and physiological stress created by that training session.

To give you an idea of the training levels, TSS guidance in training for a single Ironman is around 600-800 per week (at peak training). At present Warren and I are hitting circa 1000 to 1200 TSS number per week.

Training at the moment feels like we are always training with tired legs and arms, but that is part of the process, part of building up the endurance and mental strength we will need in order to get anywhere near completing the challenge. We remember the dark times in the previous challenges when you had to break down the mileage or the time into mangeable chunks, and we now find ourselves doing this with our training sessions for our next challenge.

Below are some stats from the last 12 months on the training across a certain three disciplines.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For me the swimming is the interesting one. On that 2015 holiday with the Mauger’s both Warren and I was marked as a safety risk by the lifeguards. One length of the 30mtr pool was not a pretty sight. 12 months on, a few technique sessions with the Tri Fitness team and over 200,000 metres swam.

As always, our challenges are fuelled by purpose, this year we are so excited to be able to support This Is EPIC and Guernsey Mind with our challenge. We are also really excited to be putting open a unique community wide event at the same time as our EPIC7 challenge, which again will be supporting Guernsey Mind and This Is EPIC.

We’re currently experiencing an interesting combination of excitement as we will be launching our challenge and the community event in the coming weeks, but also very scared about what we have taken on.

This one could very well break us, but that is part of the excitement and life changing journey of setting a big goal isn’t it? 

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