Category Archives: OCR

My Total Warrior experience.

Travelling to Bramham on Saturday I had mixed feelings. I was gutted that I was once again not participating yet excited for my first taste of Total Warrior. Arriving just before 8am we were directed to the car park and then made our way to the volunteer tent. Registration was efficient as we were kitted out, provided with lunch and given our zone. I was to be on zone 5, given the number of water safety/lifeguards on the zone it didn’t take a genius to work out it would be a wet one.


After a quick briefing we were driven to our zone and given our first glimpse of our obstacle. Mud Moguls would be my obstacle for the day. I have to admit I don’t look forward to them when I’m participating. Seven energy sapping mounds of mud with a water dip between. How could they not be fun. They were dry as the first guys leaped and bound over them, almost as if they were mere speed bumps. As the masses began to descend the mounds got wetter and wetter, quickly becoming a series of mud slides, the stuff of dreams (well maybe not). Not one to let the participants have all the fun I was soon making my way around and over the moguls offering assistance and encouragement, ok I admit I may have been in the mud pits on more than one occasion, it would have been rude not to. Every participant was great, shaking hands, hugging and saying thank you as they navigated a deceptively difficult obstacle. As the last runners came through, it was time to say goodbye to the moguls, until next time.


Back at the event village we were given our food and drink tokens and thanked for our efforts. This may have been my first experience volunteering at an OCR event but I cannot fault Total Warrior for how they look after their volunteers. Overall I had a great day, I hope the participants had as much fun as I did. I will undoubtedly be volunteering and participating when Total Warrior returns to Leeds. 

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Week 5 – The return of actual exercise.

It’s finally here, the last “take it easy week”. That’s the advice you get given, “take it easy for six weeks”, yeah and then what? Are you magically healed? Able to go back to doing everything you want the way you were before? Not quite! I’ve been looking forward to the six week mark like it was some kind of enchanted door leading to recovery and normality. In reality the 6 week anniversary is just another day and this journey will be continuous. I see that now. If truth be told I’ve been introducing new activities as I’ve seen fit, if it doesn’t pull or hurt or cause an adverse reaction I’ve done it. I’ve tried to listen to my body, be gentle with anything new and always err on the side of caution.

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The last week has seen me progress from nothing but walking, to walking, swimming, and cycling. Actual Physical activities! Walking regularly is still a staple. I’m a geek, I like data, primarily I like that it shows progress. Each week I’ve set an average daily steps target, this allows for bad and good days This weeks target has been 7500 and that’s been easily achieved. I’ve even gone above 10000 steps three times, how do fit and healthy adults fall below this recommended amount? Swimming a single length for the first time post-op was HUGE, not only because I’m not a big fan of water but because Swimming is actual exercise! I introduced it first using a noodle (the swimming not egg kind), then moved onto a pool buoy before going unaided, first for 5 metres then slightly further until I’d done the whole length.  Cycling wise I gingerly climbed on a stationary bike, being mindful of good maintaining good posture whilst also being aware that I have extraordinarily short legs that only just reach the pedals at the bottom despite the seat being at it’s lowest setting. I’ve worked up to a massive 2kms on the bike, ok it’s no Tour de Yorkshire but again it’s actual exercise and I actually feel like I’m on the road to the triathlon.

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This week also marked the point at which I was to reintroduce Pilates. For months prior to surgery I had been a regular at Pilates, building from very basic to more advanced movements and really feeling the difference. In the build up to the class I was anxious about the psychological side of going back. Don’t get me wrong I fully trust the instructor, Emma, who is also a good friend but this would be a real indication of how far back the surgery had knocked me. Walking into the hall and getting started was great, and even though being given alternatives  and being directed to the lowest level was frustrating and a reminder to leave the ego at the door I came out buzzing and looking forward to the next class.

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Whilst it’s been a good week physically, mentally it’s been tough. This week should have been “Peak week” for me in the Rat Race preparations so whilst introducing new activities is great, a 2km ride on a stationary bike is hardly as momentous as a 20 mile obstacle run. The Dirty Weekend was going to be a huge challenge, and the highlight of this year, it had rocketed both my own and my dads training to new levels, but it’s not to be. Not this year anyway. Unfortunately the numerous cancellations I’ve endured resulted in my surgery being just six weeks before this event. It’s hard to see the build up to this event, knowing that you should be preparing for whatever it holds when the reality is you are marking a 3 km walk as a new personal best. Keeping a training diary is helping, as is the events I have booked in for this year, although a further event is at risk of being slightly too early for me. One thing is for certain though, I will be running the dirty weekend next year, it will be epic, and I will be stronger, mentally and physically, than ever before!

 

Fear, recovery and womanhood?

Fear! Something you face every day. Fear of success, fear of failure, fear of your own mortality, fear of the unknown.  The issue I have with fear is that it’s not tangible. I can’t give you a lump of fear, you can’t hold it in your hands, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.  I’m a big believer in facing your fears, putting yourself in situations that scare you, thus making fear an optional concept, I choose not to be fearful.  I’m scared of water, so I completed an open water swim, I’m scared of pregnant women (feel free to continue reading when you’ve finished laughing) I’ve done pilates surrounded by pregnant ladies. In the build up to surgery I had no fear of the surgery, I’d done my research, had confidence in the medical professionals, I put myself in a position not to be fearful. Recovery can be treated in a similar way. Right now I have a choice, I can sit back, rest and do nothing or I can actively participate in the process do what I can, listen to my body and give it what it needs to recover. I choose to take control, to move forward, to be better physically and mentally.

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They say it takes 6 weeks to resume “normal” activities post-hysterectomy, which means today is the half way mark. In reality the 6 week mark will just be the start, the journey back to the activities I miss will be much longer. I miss the feeling of setting a workout, hitting the point where your body is screaming at you to stop and having the strength of mind to keep pushing through. I miss the feeling of sitting under a bar, legs threatening to give way and still finding a way to stand tall. Strangely, I miss the feeling of being on a run, lungs burning, legs feeling like they’re stuck in treacle and hitting that zone where nothing else matters, the minutes fly by as you empty your mind whilst contemplating life’s problems. I can’t understand why people take drugs when these feelings are freely available through physical efforts. With my main goal this year (rat Race Dirty Weekend) already ruled out I’m currently setting out to fill the next few months with as many challenges as possible, after all what says “F**k you” to fibroids and surgery better than pushing yourself through obstacles and challenges with a smile on your face?

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Prior to surgery many of the forums I read talked of a great sense of loss that women feel following a hysterectomy. The loss of ever being able to carry children and frequently the loss of feeling like a woman, the loss of “womanhood”. I often questioned the inevitability of these thoughts, after all I knew I didn’t want to carry children and keeping my ovaries would keep hormone levels relatively stable. Would the surgery really change how I feel about myself as a woman? Three weeks on and these feelings are nowhere to be felt. Am I any less of a woman because I’m missing a few organs? I guess that depends on how you look at things. Biologically yes, without my uterus, cervix and tubes I am less of a woman but in reality? My point of view is that being a strong woman is about being strong physically, mentally and having strength of character. Physically I’m doing whatever my body allows, mentally there have been good days and bad days but I keep working on my frustrations and occasional emotional outbursts, however no matter what challenge I’ve faced I’ve stayed true to myself and that, I believe, is what makes me a strong woman!

 

The end of Rat race 2017…..

It started with a moment of madness, signing me and my dad up to a challenge beyond anything we had done before – 20 miles and 200 obstacle. This blog was supposed to track my journey to the Rat Race Dirty weekend Full Mucker, well that was Plan A and things don’t always go to plan.

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If you’ve read my blogs from the beginning you would have seen that after a good start my journey hit a few speed bumps, namely a large fibroid (an unwanted growth in my uterus). This has had a huge impact on my life and training. I was relieved to be given a surgery date that would (If I was careful) give me just enough time to be ready for the Full Mucker. What had begun as a simple physical challenge had just grown to epic proportions.

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Working towards the surgery had given me a new focus, I was reaping the benefits of pilates and was back enjoying training (within limits). Fast forward to the 29th December, the day before surgery. I had just finished my last pre-surgery pilates class and was spending the day with my (incredibly supportive) wife getting our new house ready for when I was discharged. Then the phone call, two words “bed crisis”, that was it surgery was postponed (until when? answers on a postcard please). The initial frustration was soon joined by disappointment as I realised my journey to full mucker was all but over, for 2017 at least.

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So where to now? Well aside from the waiting game that I continue to be an unwilling participant of, I’ve decided that frustration and anger won’t get me anywhere; instead I will be working hard to make sure I am physically and mentally in the best shape possible for surgery. New short term goals have been set and a few more challenges are in the pipeline. As for the Rat Race we will be transferring our entries to the 2018 race. The journey continues albeit on a slightly altered route.

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Am I getting more mature?

For those that know me the notion that I am getting more mature is probably being met with barrels of laughter. In truth, in everyday life I’m not any more mature but in training things are different. Gone is the mind-set of just beast myself as hard as I can for the whole time I’m training every-time I’m training. Now it’s more of a measured approach, yes some days you will find me pushing myself, others you will find a more measured approach. If I’ve trained at a high intensity one day the next will be at a lower intensity, I’m experimenting with heart rate zones and actually enjoying just playing around with methods and styles of training. It’s difficult to see if it’s working, progress has certainly been made over the last couple of months but is it more or less than what my old style of training would have brought? Who knows! In reality the physical benefits to training is only a small part of what training has given me.

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Having returned to exercise having been advised to considerably modify my training I honestly believe I am in a better physical shape to tackle the trials and tribulations of surgery and recovery than I would have been if I’d remained at such a minimal level of training. Psychologically this is hugely important, and this is where the true maturity is developing. I know that what I’ve been doing the last month or so and what I do in the coming weeks won’t get me to the finish line of rat race dirty weekend but it will help determine if I get to the start line. And if I get to the start line the chances of me completing my challenge is pretty high.

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So there you have it, just a few days before surgery and I’m feeling surprisingly good. I’ve accepted there’s nothing I can do about what will happen on the day (and let’s face it with the NHS there’s always the chance it will be cancelled – Everything crossed this is not the case!), but I can change how I react to the challenges I face, to the frustrations of the recovery process, and the embarrassment of the hospital paper pants!

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Things are looking up.

The last couple of weeks has been full of positives, providing relief from what had begun feeling like I was banging against a brick wall. Training wise I have managed to string some good sessions together and boy does it feel good. The result is that I have actually seen some progress not only in terms of what I can actually do but also in how I feel after the session. I have attended body pump on a few occasions and even dared up my weight, I know living life on the edge right!, I never thought I would enjoy something like body pump but I’m actually starting to enjoy handing over responsibility for programming a weights sessions to someone else. On the weights training note I did a full set of Olympic lifting this week, actually clean and jerked a real life barbell. It is probably slightly worrying how happy a 35kg clean and jerk actually made me. Pilates is still a staple in my diary, I am seeing progress every time, whether it be in the volume or intensity I am able to do or stepping up the difficulty of the exercise.

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It has been so nice seeing these positives and realising that although my fitness levels are nowhere near where they were only a couple of months ago they are progressing even if it is by little baby steps. One of the major changes that I think has facilitated such a positive couple of weeks is that I’ve been listening to my body. This is not just in terms of taking days off and “taking it easy” but more that I am taking exercises slowly listening to when enough is enough to allow me to do other exercises, taking a step back when I need a complete change and focusing more on what I can do rather than what I am restricted from. Yes there are still days where I have really crappy sessions but so does everyone, and rather than letting these crappy sessions affect the next session I am now reflecting and learning from what I’ve done and taking these lessons forward.

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Secondly I finally have a date for surgery, I never thought I would be so happy to know I am going to be sliced and diced in only a few short weeks (NHS bed shortages allowing). My first thought was if I would have long enough to train for the Dirty weekend post-surgery. I have calculated that I have 127 days to recover from surgery and be fit enough to complete a 20 mile obstacle course. I have taken inspiration from “Operation Ironman” by George Mahood who completed an ironman only a few months out from spinal surgery, researched recovery protocols and spoken to people who have had similar procedures and although I am cutting it mighty close I am confident I will be a “Filthy Mucker” by tea time on the 6th May 2017. After all the whole point of signing up for the Dirty Weekend was to provide a challenge, and this is one hell of a challenge!

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If you would like to read more about the challenge that lays ahead and what is motivating me to continue please follow these links.

A moment of madness = 200 obstacles, 20 miles

Why I’m running.

Taking it easy Vs Being sensible

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This blog was supposed to be a review of, what would likely have been, a great afternoon of fun at The Suffering, 6 months and 7 days before the big one, Rat race Dirty Weekend . However rather than a tale of excitement and fun, feats of endurance and strength as I dragged myself and family through what looked like an adults playground, this blog is about road blogs, sulking and geeking out!

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With my final Obstacle run of 2016 just days away and excitement building my body gave me a sharp reminder that not all is well, Body 1 – Fun 0! It may have been a shift at work involving lots of lifting, stubbornness at pilates (Note to self – that look and “is that ok” question actually means “try the lower option”) or it may have been the culmination of a busy training week. Whatever the reason the result was the same, a missed weekend with the family and an unused race entry. To say I am disappointed would be an understatement, and even by my relatively unsociable standards, I have been in serious need of an “approach with caution” sign above my head as I pulled off a rather impressive angry elf impression.

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Two days of sulking and being fed up is over, it’s time to return to being grateful for the progress I’ve made and look forward to the remaining journey to the Full Mucker. Six months, six days and 12 hours to prepare for a challenge that will test endurance, strength and guts. Plenty of time in normal circumstances however, in just over a months time I am expecting to undergo abdominal surgery with a 6-8 week recovery period. Yes that is cutting it fine, but I like a challenge.

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I’ve written before about controlling my competitive/stubborn streak and although I still need to work on that I am making progress. More and more I’m able to ignore others and focus on myself, my form and my movements. Despite this shift in attitude friends and family still insist on telling me to “take it easy” something I find difficult to understand when it comes to training.

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How much progress can actually be made by “taking it easy”? My thinking is not much! So here lies the problem, how can I make progress towards my goals of being in the best shape possible for surgery, facilitating my recovery and preparation for the rat race weekend whilst not aggravating my current circumstances. As a geek knowledge and understanding are my tools of choice, my thinking being, that if you understand how and why things work it’s easier to make informed decisions, make the most of training time and avoid anything that might aggrevate or detract from training. So this weekend my kindle has taken a hammering, a reading list containing texts on calisthenics, Heart rate training, Yoga and pilates  has been created as I look to plan my training for the next month in the most “sensible” way I know. Stay tuned to find out if it works or if the angry elf returns.

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Why I’m doing what I’m doing

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A lesson in leaving the ego at the door

I am not the fittest, nor the strongest, never have been, but I am competitive, and stubborn and boy do I lack patience with myself, especially when it comes to training, fitness and sport! That’s not to say I am egotistical, not by a long way but I am someone that uses those around me to push my training. Leaving this competitive stubborn streak at the door when training is a challenge, a mental challenge that rivals the physical ones I enjoy so much, only this challenge is less enjoyable. 


Exhibit A: I was out early one morning this week “enjoying” a steady run, when this older lady complete with curly grey hair, Lycra shorts and a Tshirt from an event dated well before I was born jogged passed wishing me a good morning without so much as a break in her breathing. Now every ounce of my being wanted to speed up, overtake her and win the “race”, but no I smiled, politely nodded and took the next turning so I didn’t have to stare at the constant reminder of my inferior running ability. This event ate away at me (I know what you are thinking, no it’s not my proudest moment) I was annoyed at myself for letting her overtake me, I was angry at myself for being annoyed. 


Exhibit B: Pilates, now forget the stereotypical elderly ladies quietly working their way through well rehearsed routines. This is not the case with this class every class is different, different focuses, different challenges. I’ve done the class at various times on and off for a couple of years, never the top of the class but rarely the one struggling at the lowest level. This is where current frustration lies; learning to accept that whilst an exercise was well within my capabilities not that long ago it’s now well in advance of what I can even attempt. Whilst others in the group male/female older/younger are moving their bodies through slow coordinated exercises my body is crying out for me to take a step back and re-evaluate what is realistic. Sometimes regressing techniques other times stopping completely, starring wistfully at the ceiling waiting, hoping the next exercise is something my body will let me do.


These are just two examples of how my approach to training and motivation has had to change. No longer is it about using those around me as a yardstick to measure myself or push my training, no matter how much I miss that side of training. Motivation now is about putting myself in the best place for the challenges that lie ahead. In someways I suppose I am having to be more patient with myself, more mature in my approach. Some days the slightest improvement can make me feel on top of the world, other days the simplest task leaves a level of frustration far beyond what is proportionate. Yet everyday is a fight to be better prepared, stronger mentally and more motivated to look forward to what lies ahead. 

Spartan Sprint – you’ll know it at the finish, or will you?

With the Manchester Spartan Race cancelled my wait for my first Spartan experience was extended. By the time I was on my way to the venue I was excited and anxious to get going after all a race with the tag line “you’ll know at the finish” leaves you with high expectations. The start line set the tone for the race, yes you had to clamber over a small (4 foot-ish) wall just to get into the starting pen. As Spartan newbies we didn’t really know what to expect baring a fire jump and spear throw, thankfully the duty Spartan quickly discovered our wave was indeed a wave full of Spartan Virgins. It wasn’t long before “I am a Spartan” was ringing in the ears of everyone within a mile radius and we were off. Months of anticipation and excitement were about to unfold.

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One thing I have noticed in the events I’ve done is how amazing the marshals are and baring a few that looked like someone had stole their last jelly bean they were smiling positive and full of advise (does “30 burpees” count as advise?). The guy dishing out the burpees at the monkey bars had some good banter and inventive burpee variations to keep everyone smiling following a good old British downpour. The lady at the barbed wire crawl dishing out advise and hugs. The ladies at the penultimate double wall were amazing, all day the supported, lifted pushed and encouraged participants over the wall yet their enthusiasm never dwindled, they were still going as we left the event village. The only real criticism  was the extended wooded section where not one marshal was to be seen and very little tape marked the route.

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If I’m honest I was a little disappointed by the variety of obstacles, there was walls, rope climb, walls, spear throw, object carries, walls and drags, did I mention walls? Yes there were lots of walls, initially this was fine but having to clamber over wall after wall when fences also had to be climbed just got us wishing for a little more inventiveness. Admittedly they were varying heights etc but walls are walls. The main obstacle was terrain, rough, uneven and full of stingy plants, at the end of the day it’s there so use it and it did add to the course.

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Overall I enjoyed the race, it wasn’t a massive challenge but it was only the sprint. It showed me that my training is working as walls were much less challenging than in previous events, I was even successful at the two overhanging walls. The rope climb was one obstacle I had been looking forward to and dreading in equal measures. It was made slightly trickier by the downpour that left the rope wet, muddy and slippery yet surprisingly I made it to the top and rang the bell (if you know my dad feel free to ask him how he got on). The remainder of the obstacle were challenging but realistic, and lets face it anything that finishes with a fire jump is going to make you smile.

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They say “you’ll know at the finish” but what did I know? I was left still questioning it. Other events I’ve done have been better organised, offered more variety of obstacle and a more welcoming atmosphere. Spartan is a brand known to the general population, its reputation is one of toughness and challenge, not for the faint hearted. Spartan race, for me, was similar to some big brand shoes, they do the same job as a cheaper version and from time to time you’re left wondering if what you’ve really paid for is the name. Having said that I’ve still got that nagging feeling that I’m missing something, there is still a part of me  that wonders if I am/could be tough enough to complete the trifecta? I can see where the “cult” label comes from, once you’re in you are left wanting to delve further into the community, see what the longer, harder races have to offer, see if you are strong and fit enough to take on their challenge or if you are just destined to a life of lesser known challenges.

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So where to now? Away from OCR I have a mammoth 2km “swim” in 10 days time. OCR wise I am returning to the Suffering Race at the end of October and am looking for another race before then. I am already compiling a wish list for 2017. I started this blog to track my progress to Rat Race Dirty Weekend 2017 and help raise awareness and funds for two charities, the Royal British Legion and Scotty’s little soldiers. What I am finding is that this journey is one that will continue beyond next May.

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If you would like to donate to our two worthy causes please use the link below.

http://www.virginmoneygiving.com/team/WilkosRatrace2017

 

I ran, I swam, I conquered

Well this week has been full of milestones! Firstly I conquered the open water swim, well sort of. After some practice and acclimatisation between the jetties I got back out of the lake, across the pontoon and jumped in. Feet first and scoring around 1.5 for grace but I did it, and the success continued. Setting the goal of hitting the next buoy I swam a recognised stroke the whole way around the course. Yes there was tantrums, yes there was panics and yes I still wanted to get out but  after successfully making it around not once but twice (yes my wife is that pushy) I left feeling knackered but just a little bit proud of myself. Does this mean my fear of water is conquered, not at all but it is a positive memory to bank away for when the fear kicks in. 


As for running I set myself the target of running a sub 90minute 10km by the end of July and today I achieved just that. I acknowledge this is not a fantastic time by “runners” standards but for me and my short legs it’s a far cry from where we were a few months ago. There has been less success on the pull up front I’ve achieved two unassisted with a slight kip but fallen short of the 5, not only that but having spent so long on pull ups my chin ups have suffered too. Overall though training appears to be heading in the right direction.


Ratrace have had a few events recently and each one looks so professionally ran, the reviews are always top notch and they really seem to go the extra mile for participants. I cannot wait to get in on the action next year at the dirty weekend, I can see this being the start of the journey with so many cool challenges I think a season pass maybe in order. And getting to raise awareness and funds for a couple of worthwhile causes makes it all even more fun.