Run its course

The time has come to draw a line under “Swim the Solent”. It was a great title for a blog that initially was about the journey from novice swimming through to crossing the Solent. Since then various (equally hare  – brained) schemes have come along, variously these ranged from swimming cycling and running, meaning that the title became less appropriate. For 2017 there will be another challenge to push the boundaries, this time pedalling from Poole to Paris. It seems that the time is right to rename the blog to something that will give the flexibility to reflect the different challenges that will be undertaken. So long and thanks for all the fish! Please visit us at “Pushing the Boundaries” for updates for 2017. See you there.

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The best laid plans (and all that)

IMG_0809A little over a month since the last blog and the dreaded man flu is still hanging around. It put paid to a few days of my ski holiday, much to my frustration, but as time marches on and with the prospect of pedalling from Poole to Paris now probably only 3 or 4 months away, it’s time to turn thoughts to some planning. Usually challenge planning takes place with a few foaming glasses (for inspiration) but this year thanks to antibiotics it was a glass of Ribena, (other fruit squashes are probably available).

I was asked a few weeks ago if I had a fundraising page so I set one up and it’s already raised the first £20 (thank you whoever you are “anonymous donor”), so its real and we have now to get on and do it. So buoyed on by that, the chief protagonist of this years harebrained scheme, (lets call him Matt, as that’s still his name) and I sat down with a notebook, a map and a calendar. To be honest the session raised more questions than answers and so its now time to start doing some homework but the plan still remains to cover the distance in around 4 days, provisional route is planned as above, it will entail something like the equivalent of London to Brighton each day for 4 consecutive days, and the rest probably needs for us to have a proper alcohol fuelled planning session.

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Never felt better

Today, I’ve got a touch of the dreaded man flu, not a very uplifting blog start I know but its got me thinking. Ever since this blog started it has been in one way or another about taking on some new kind of venture. In the past few years I’ve spent increasing amounts of time training for and taking on challenges both to push myself physically and mentally as well as to raise funds for the charity that is dear to me.img_0834

The blog name doesn’t really cover it all anymore but I kind of like it and it has stuck, (maybe its time for a tweak (no not a twerk) who knows?). In the course of the last few years I’ve taken on swimming, cycling and most recently running events. (To be honest the running isn’t really my favourite and I think I might be blaming the current dose of man flu on the short burst of hailstones that assailed us on Saturday evening doing the Bournemouth Glow Run 5k). I’m not sure that these sports will ever merge into a full triathlon but we (little Bro and me) did have a dabble at a “sprint” (very loose sense of the word) triathlon last year, although for a non runner I’m pretty happy with my glow run time of 30 minutes and 16 seconds (5.1k, who knows why they added on those few extra metres to what I expected was going to be 5K).

The point is that over the last few years all this exercise has got me to be a lot fitter than I was (although to be fair my start point wasn’t great) and I’m now feeling better than ever – well apart from the (did I mention it?) man flu.

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Back in the Saddle

Well today I braved the cold and got back in the saddle on my nice new (to me) Ribble Sportive. What a great (if still a little scary) ride it was. I enjoyed London to Brighton so much even on my E Bay Carrera Zelos that I thought it was worthwhile upgrading to a bike that would perhaps let me manage the infamous Ditching beacon, if not in the saddle then at least on the bike (rather than walking, as I had to this year). I found a great bike on e bay and little Bro was dispatched to pick it up for me. A full carbon framed bike for around half of its new value. Even better it has wheel upgrades. So today was the first chance I got to try it out proper and what a ride it was. For the first time ever on two self propelled wheels I found myself actively seeking out little bits of extra loops that I could add on to extend the ride. It changes direction in the blink of an eye which is great but on the down side it is so light that that it wobbles a bit,  I had a couple of occasions when I thought it was going over and about to dump me on the tarmac but wobbles aside it was a great ride.ribble

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And so it begins again!

As September draws to a close, yesterday saw my third charity event in as many weeks taking part in the “Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride” #DGR. The DGR is an international event with participants worldwide dressing Dapper and riding motorcycles in aid of male issues. It started off as a prostate cancer awareness fundraiser and has rapidly grown to a point where it is the largest worldwide charity for mens matters and so this year has expanded to include male suicide awareness. dgrThe Bournemouth ride has for the last few years been superbly arranged by James and this year saw well over 200 motorcyclists congregate on Poole quay for a 9:30am start. What a sight it was as we left the quay. The group was cheered and waved at by bystanders throughout the journey. At the time of writing it is also suggested that the Bournemouth ride alone has raised around £13k.

I’ve had a great September busy with this kind of thing and also pretty manic work wise but now its done its time to start thinking about what might be the challenge for 2017. It needs to be something that I will have to work for, no point doing something easy. Matt (my cycle buddy from L2B) has already suggested a longer cycle with the working title of the Poole to Paris Pedal, which might be an option, little Bro has started making triathlon sounding noises, or theres possibly the Spinnaker tower abseil. Thinking cap on watch this space!

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Been there done that.

ditchling2A week has now flown by since the completion of this years challenge and it has taken me that long to put finger to keyboard. That’s more a reflection on how busy my week has been than on how buzzing I felt after the ride. I was itching to put my thoughts down after the ride but its taken me until now to find the time. As I said last week, September is crazy busy and more evidence of that has been in how totally disorganised I have been. For starters the plan last weekend was thrown into complete disarray by the fact that my memory failed me resulting in a smallish (20 miles) detour en route to London to collect a briefcase that I stupidly left in a hotel after a Saturday morning meeting. That detour made us a bit late for our carb loading pre ride pasta dinner, but once we arrived dinner was great.

So Sunday morning was my seventh consecutive 5am start of the week as we wanted to make an early start and beat the crowds to Brighton. An athletes breakfast of Tea, Porridge and Honey, then pockets stuffed full of jelly beans and we were off warming up with a leisurely cycle from little Bro’s flat to the start on Clapham Common.

Its surprising how quickly we were out of London and wending our way toward the coast. The miles racked up fairly uneventfully and we made it most of the way without mishap. One of our group added a few unintentional miles due to a signage malfunction and I  managed to have an unscheduled dismount (AKA an SPD Incident) but thankfully out of sight of anyone.

A bit like last years swim it’s been both a challenge and a learning experience for me. Without fail every single (cycling) person I mentioned the challenge to responded immediately with a reference to Ditching Beacon and now I know why. About 8 miles before you get to Brighton (so when your legs have already done about 45 miles) you are confronted with the mother of all climbs to the top of the south Downs. Admittedly its all downhill from there but Ditching is a mile long climb that tests you to the limit (or in mine and many other cases, just beyond it). I desperately wanted to stay on my bike for the whole climb but a hundred yards or so from the summit I had to resort to Shanks’ pony and walk the last stretch. If I’d listened to my cycle buddy’s advice (ride with your legs not your eyes) perhaps I’d have made it, but after rounding bend after bend and every time hoping to be at the top, that last bend defeated me. The view from the top was spectacular and helped enormously by the knowledge that it was all (literally) downhill from here. It was so downhill that my route tracker recorded a max speed of 44 mph and we even managed to set off one of those “slow down” roadside signs. And all of a sudden we were on Brighton seafront. Job done, Challenge for 2016 completed.

Whats next?


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Thanks for the Memory

img_1616When we first started this blog, in the lead up to our Solent Swim, it was intended (certainly from my point of view) to be partly about that particular journey, hence the subtitle (the journey from paddling in the surf to crossing the Solent) but also partly to raise awareness of pancreatic and neuroendocrine tumours, and finally to demonstrate that even after major surgery (thanks to the guys at planets), it is possible to live life to the full and push yourself both physically and mentally. I’ll leave “Little Brother” (my Co-Author) to speak for himself about his motivations, which may have their roots in brotherly love or perhaps they will be rooted in sibling rivalry, I don’t know but I have my suspicions based upon the fact that he gets involved if the challenge is something like swimming or cycling (both of which he is stronger than me in), rather than skydiving or fire walking (draw your own conclusions).

Since my surgery I have walked on fire, swum across the Solent and this year will be taking on London to Brighton on a bicycle. All of these are things that I probably wouldn’t have even contemplated before. I could swim but had never taken on an open water challenge, I could ride a bike but had never considered an endurance event on two wheels and as for fire walking, well why would you? (actually just because you can)!  I’ve done all of these both to challenge myself but also to raise some funds for charity. Pancreatic cancer took my mother in law and my brush (with a fortunately benign) GI  tumour bought it home even more. My primary charity is Planets at Southampton Hospital.

However as life moves on and whilst Planets remains my main focus, my life is touched by other diseases that are affecting friends and family and so this month I’m taking on 3 challenges within the space of a similar number of weeks.

The upshot of all of this is that I have overstretched myself  a bit during September and in particular this week, with work, voluntary commitments and charitable efforts I have found myself committed to covering around 1308 miles (equating to about 30 hours travelling). To kick of on Sunday we did an Alzheimers memory walk of 4 miles (2 hours). It was a spectacular walk around Studland bay with great views of Old Harry rocks (the name variously attributed to a nickname for the Devil or to a local Pirate), Swanage bay and Poole bay. A small group of us were treated to a helicopter display by the coastguard whilst we walked. I was astonished by the generosity of complete strangers who approached us and gave us money as we walked. Alzheimers and Dementia generally  are clearly something that impacts on so many people and I (along with other walkers) have seen at first hand the cruel impact of this disease. I hope that the small amount we raised helps in some way.mem2

Next up this week is London to Brighton on a pushbike. I’m really looking forward to these 54 miles (hopefully 4-5 hours of my total). Starting on Sunday morning at silly o’clock my cycle buddy seems to think we will be in Brighton before mid day (lets see how that pans out). Well I say I’m looking forward to it, I’ve prepared well enough and I’m comfortable I can do it but I have to say a certain part of my anatomy (the part perched on a very narrow bicycle seat) probably isnt that keen on the prospect of 4-5 hours of pain.

Finally the following weekend I’m back on two wheels but at least this time with a few petrol HP to assist me as I take on the Distinguished Gentleman’s ride for prostate cancer. Another disease that has touched the lives of people I care about.

Perhaps its time to add another subtitle to the blog name, perhaps it should be Swim the Solent – and other Harebrained Schemes, or perhaps just living life to the full!


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The Trick is……

As I was riding around the new Forest this weekend I couldn’t help but find my mind drifting back to an endurance event I rode in Poland in 2006. Long, long  days of grinding out miles through beautiful mountains and countryside, hopping backwards and forwards across the border of Poland and the Czech Republic. If I could do that for 5 days I know I can ride down to Brighton with Stuart……………but then that was 10 years ago!!

I am absolutely loving riding my road bike even though admitting to moving over to “The Dark side” as my MTB friends refer to it has not gone down too well with some of the boys in baggies. Don’t knock it till you’ve tried it I say, and if I do seriously want to take on a triathlon it had to be done. There’s obviously a lot of things that the two disciplines have in common but the main one that stands out for me is that they both hurt when you’re trying hard enough. I’m not sure where the idea came from that road bikes take themselves up hills but it isn’t true. They don’t. I’m also not sure where the idea came from that downhill riding was easier on a road bike. Never have I been so scared riding downhill as I have been on the last few rides. The speed picks up so quickly and the temptation to go with it is simply irresistible but the brakes just don’t feel as if they have the stopping power of disc brakes. I’m not averse to pushing things a tad but coming off at 58km/h is going to hurt a lot even if you are fortunate enough to land on something softer than tarmac, like a gorse bush.

Pain management was definitely one of the things that got me and the guys I rode around Poland with through each and every day (along with a lot of bananas and pasta) and I’m in no doubt that it will be necessary on the way down to Brighton. So once again I’ll be taking inspiration from one of Britain’s most renowned military officers and diplomats, Lawrence of Arabia.

The Trick is.jpgPotter: [trying to copy Lawrence’s snuffing a match with his fingers] Oooh! It damn well hurts.

Lawrence: Certainly it hurts.

Potter: Well, what’s the trick, then?

Lawrence: The trick, William Potter, is not minding that it hurts.





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Feeling Good

August bank holiday weekend has been a blast so far (and its only Sunday). Been a weekend of “Firsts and Lasts”, “Ups and Downs”, “Highs and Lows” almost exclusively in a good way. To get one of the “lasts” out of the way early on, I was reminded that it is the last public holiday now until Christmas . Never mind that! The late August bank holiday  arrived with a blaze of late summer sunshine here in Dorset, with a cracking day on Saturday we decided to get in a serious cycling session in preparation for next months London to Brighton. The new forest is a great place to get close to nature (more of that later) and a real mecca for cyclists. With Skippy (2) loaded up with her roofbars the first “first” was that  I had my first experience of loading a cycle on top, which wasn’t quite as easy as I had envisaged it would be, but once it was hoisted above head height it was on and we were off. Early morning rendezvous planned with little Bro and Kim, I headed into the forest, luckily against the flow of bank holiday traffic flocking south to enjoy a part of the country that I am lucky enough to call home.

The ride itself was great, we covered 60km (a little more than intended due to some navigational issues) and the aforementioned highs and lows incluAllin (1)
ded plenty of climbs and descents, which is probably where we hit another high in the form of a max speed of 58km, which is quite exhilarating on two human powered wheels. Shame we weren’t consistent in that as we would have finished in about a third of the time it actually took us. I also got a lot more acquainted with the saddle than I was particularly comfortable with especially at cattle grid sections of the route. We also got to commune with nature in a few ways. The forest is home to an abundance of ponies inclined to wander at will but they didn’t trouble us. We had two close encounters within a very short space. Mine was in the form of a stationary hedge that I bounced off due to an ill executed moving alongside little bro just as he moved right to avoid a patch of gravel, Kim who saw the whole incident from her vantage point just behind us had hardly stopped laughing when she became a victim of a winged stinging insect that got stuck in her jersey, stinging her just before it escaped.

The route took us through some parts of the forest that I kn
ow fairly well and some that I don’t think I’ve seen before, it shared with us some spectacular views and even the traffic gridlocked (as it always is) Lyndhurst was fun as we weaved through traffic. A small miscalculation towards the end added about 5km to the planned route but the upshot was that we covered a good two thirds of what we will need to do next month and so I’m feeling  good
with only a few weeks to go.






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Well today was my four-year annual follow-up. Glad to say it all went well, (not that I had any concerns that it might not but it’s always good to hear). It was really nice to see Arjun (my surgeon) again. Results from CT scan all good, weight good, looking well.

So lets expand on that a bit. CT Scan, I’m due to have an annual scan at least for one more year by which time they will be confident that all the joins/plumbing adjustments are secure and doing their job. I may be in the minority but I quite enjoy the whole CT scan thing. I’m not overly fond of the bit where they stick needles in you but the remainder of it is OK and the warm tingling sensation that swamps your body is nice in an odd kind of a way. It was described to me the first time as feeling a bit like you had wet yourself and I haven’t found a better description. Although this year they insisted I drank so much water before the scan that I couldn’t help wonder if it wasn’t just the impression.

Weight good; well I’m not all that heavy but the loss of a big part of pancreas can apparently make you in the longer term a bit more susceptible to developing diabetes so I do try to keep on top of my weight. My GP seems to have some chart that suggests that at around 82kg, I’m technically overweight (or under-height as the old joke goes) not quite borderline obese but don’t get any fatter. As I’ve mentioned before my eating habits have certainly changed and I eat reasonably healthily and exercise plenty but my weight rarely changes (I think that’s a good sign). I did today have it explained to me that the whipples procedure is related to bariatric surgery and the reshaping/reconstructing of my insides is almost guaranteed to avoid me putting on weight. PS I weighed 79.1kg today.

Looking Good? Well the sun is out, I’ve got another years MoT under my belt, life is good, why wouldn’t I be looking good?

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