Training and Sponsorship

As the training builds up, the need for sponsorship increases at www.justgiving.com/iamtombird100miler.

Running across the Norfolk beaches provides a welcome change from ‘ol London town. The clear air, the blue skies, the lapping of the waves. Pure running poetry.

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With 7 weeks until the London Marthon, I am on track for a sub 330. However as with all these things, the right training, nutrition and planning – it can all go wrong.

More nightime running required during the week on Hampstead Heath (occasionally bumping into Ricky Gevais on the trails (running also)). This week will involve some speed sessions, leg weights to improve these little chicken legs and ensure the right diet continues.

A few 20 milers planned over the next few weeks to get the stamina back where it should be.

Training in Costa Rica

It wouldn’t be Christmas without a morning run around the sun drenched beaches of Costa Rica. Having shaken off severe man-flu and suspected malaria I have got back in the training seat in preparation for the big 100 in June. The coastal paths, the hilltops with amazing views. Makes London a distant memory. New Years may cause a slight blip in the training regime but just being here is heaven!

The UKs Toughest Footrace – Ultra Trail South West 100 mile race

Having been trying to shake of the flu, new job, moving flat its started to take its toll on my running. I.e. nothing for 2 weeks !

So what better race to train for than the UTSW 100 miler, the UK’s Toughest Footrace.

The Endurancelife Ultra Trail South West exists for three reasons; firstly, to be amongst the most challenging, non stop, off road, point to point trail races in the world. Secondly, to promote the South West Coast Path to a wider global audience and finally, to inspire more people to spend more time in beautiful natural surroundings and to make challenge, adventure and the preservation of wild open spaces an integral part of their every day lives.
The UTSW is a celebration of mans ability to endure, it stands testament to the human beings innate sense of adventure, and his supreme ability to employ mind over matter. The UTSW is intentionally designed to be an exceptionally difficult yet richly rewarding personal challenge that can only be achieved with committed preparation, and extraordinary determination.
Lets get those trainers on an start running !

Day 7 – the final stage and home

As the final runners rose in full spirits, yet hobbling around, it was another early start as we watched them get ready as the sun rose over the river. An amazing setting for the final stage. A few kit checks, feet checks and the runners were off. The rest of us hobbling around inspecting each others wounded legs and all relieved we were still in one piece. It was on the sweat bus to the finish, the pleasant fish smelling beach front with a beautiful view of a massive tanker. as the medics set up shop, the finish line was set up (after a few attempts), Katie and I headed to the river edge and found a table to sit and order some well earned fish and chips and some beer, it was 9am after all…

As the first runners came in we cheered from the side lines, finished our breakfast and limped to greet them at the finish line restaurant. Everyone was in high spirits at the end of an amazing week. It was all over. Bags returned, back on the sweat bus and to Hotel Bagdad, also known as Hotel Paradiso…a dip in the pool to ease the feet and some make up and hair gel to prepare for the prize giving party.

A shakey bus ride to the beautiful setting looking at the sunset across the Amazon with all our new friends. A few miffed words from some at the events misgivings but after a few beers and some hearty grub, Shirley returned to present the prizes. As Dan Dillon picked up his 1st place, he grabbed the mic and said a few eloquent Glaswegian words. In a nutshell, he backed up the race, it is what it is, a tough race in an amazing location and if it wasnt for Shirley, none of us would be there. That said and done, everyone was on their way, some onward to a local bar, some of us to bed for the 3am rise to get home !

As the tired and weary, some of which hadnt been to bed, got back on the bus to the airport, everyone was ready to go home. With a long journey ahead of us and some ankle swelling to come, everyone was exhausted yet all seemed happy.

On returning to the UK and the facebook frenzy that has followed with new friends, photos of the event, you cant really explain the ‘jungle comedown’. It was such a magical, mystical, obliteration of the mind and body that you miss it,  strangely.

As a new career is planned, a new race is searched I can only thank my fellow runners and medics for their support throughout the week – and to my Katie who came with me to support through heaven and hell. Without her, I wouldnt even have got to the start line.

Until next time, obrigada !

Day 5- the long stage, 105km

Up at 3am, had a coffee and some porridge which was difficult to keep down. Pondering whether I should really attempt 105km with my feet the way they were and general feeling of weakness. But a few of us who were feeling a bit down decided to go for it. As the countdown to the 5am start began, still dark, all head torches on. We went for it…straight into a water crossing which would have impacted on my beautifully taped feet and then into the night. Watching the sun rise over the jungle canopy cannot be replicated by video (lots of it to follow) or pictures. the eerie silence and then the jungle sounds. Picking out a few eyes with the head torches, the pace picked up and we all marched on. Approx 2 hours into it, we came across the first checkpoint. Becky provided some much needed dressing for my chafed inner thigh which had started to leak…some friars balsam to make we weep like a girl was needed to stop and infection and then it was off down the path. The dressing fell off my insect infected leg within seconds.

As the sun started to rise the beautful beach run led into villages and then back into the jungle. Checkpoint 2 came along quite quickly and followed by a very long 9km. By this point I was going a bit loopy, seeing giant frogs the size of humans and then getting lost. I wasnt sick but felt it. The hills came again, more water and my legs and chafing became unbearable. I had a choice, end now and recover before I go home, or push through in agony and pain. as I stumbled into checkpoint 3, after a week of pain and deleriousness I decided at 150km that I should sensibly throw in the towel. The jungle had beaten me fair and square – i had got lost and I had stopped having fun. After some persuasion by the medical team, I managed to firmly say no more and sit back and get nibbled by tics and spiders as I waited for whatever was to happen next.

As more competitors tickled in, the delightfully American Juli Goldstein (who had ABC news with her) and Jacob came through, topped up and carried on. Followed by Kato and Rahim. A few hours later, Craig, Sally and Guy came through after their 5 hour battle and also called it a day. as another chap John came through (he had gunned it for the first few days) he was suffering big time from dehydration and overheating, as the medics tried to revive him, he was starting to shake so the put an IV drop in, sliced off his clothes (i turned away at this point) and threw ice on him to maintain his temp. As he shivered his temp spiked and started to cause a few problems, but the medical team were in control and bought him back round. An ambulance was called (a van) and he was taken off to the hospital an hour or so away.

As the reality set in of what I had done, in terms of distance and survival I waited patiently for my instructions on what to do next. We waited for the medical team to pack up their kit and made our way on the dusty sweat bus to the next checkpoint a few miles down the track where we caught up with some fed up competitors who had done the 9km stage in 4 hours which asks the question, how long is it really ! people were running out of water and starting to look a bit worse for wear. I was feeling rather happy at the prospect of just letting my feet recover and helping out where I could with the other runners. As a few more people came in, they all had to wait until the track was safe – the course had to change as it was now dark and too dangerous to do the jungle section at night. So it was head torches on for the rest of the and head along the village tracks to the next checkpoint. For the rest of us, it was back on the bus to the next checkpoint. Dont really know what happened next as by this point, approx midnight I fell asleep and woke up at the finish of the stage at a very picturesque village/ Amazon beach front where we set up hammocks at 7am amongst the tables and chairs of the restaurants. We rested, recovered and had some proper food. Matt shouted us some piranna, chips and beer which was a welcome change to the freeze dried wallpaper paste we had been getting so used to.

Then as rumours of the race being cancelled, more people pulling out and forest fires, jaguar stories, people getting lost, the ever graceful yet delicate specimen of a man, Daniel Dillon stormed across the beach doing press ups before he hit the finish line. A true inspiration of a runner and looking as effortless as the last few days. as a few more followed later, the race was back in full flow with the ever amazing Jim Binks appearing over the horizon to the cross the line. Only about 12 people finished the 105km stage – inspired.

Katie returned from her checkpoint (paradise by name) and a couple more beers, some Amazonian chicken and more chips to take away the pain in my feet and return my state to a more normal one.

and early night and an early rise to see off the remaining runners finish off their race.

 

 

Stage 4 – 42 km (ish)

An easy day today apparently. Flat. Now as most people who competed this year and the years before, you should take what you are told with a pinch of salt. Early rise out of the jungle to some lush wet terrain and some more steep inclines (flat and easy I believe its referred to). The highlight of the first bit was the 1km water featurette. ‘just float down’ said the race organiser Shirley who greeted us at the stream crossing. Feet first I jumped in ready for the relaxing float downstream to the the next checkpoint. Bash, bang and whollop. My legs were getting smashed to pieces underwater. Then climbing over logs, swimming under – always looking out for snakes and whatever else was lurking in the water. Still, greeted at the checkpoint by the medics who had been on the local cognac all morning. A quick sip of cashew juice and off we went, again getting a good pace but then started to wobble a bit as the heat was taking its toll. Checkpoint 2 was a heavenly sight, Katie waiting patiently to service me with some water and nuts. More taping of my well chafed back and a random clown driving along to the village path with loud music blearing – was it the heat making me hallucinate ? goodness knows but off I went on a small trot to the next checkpoint. More hills !! this was supposed to be easy. Delved into my race bag for some gels to help keep me going however they wouldnt stay down. Initially some mild heartburn followed by some vomitus which didnt go down well (ha !) with the medics as I stumbled into the final check point overheating and very weak. Some ice was thrown over me to cool down, a sneaky banana and the final stretch to the finish for the day. At this point I was ready to throw the towel in. My feat, back and chafing between the legs (wont go into detail) i started to realise that this race was a tough one and I wasnt going to last much longer. More stumbling, more swearing and finally got into the finish where a slumped my bag and headed straight for the medical tent. The lovely Subias from Spain gave me some of his magic powder to add to my water which made me feel better immediately (not sure what was in it but some form of recovery drink). Made me realise I have my nutritian and hydration strategy a bit muddled but Katie helped force it down me. The leader of the race, the delightful and pleasantly fragrant Dan Dillon from Glasgow told Katie to feed me instantly and drink loads as I would thank him for it later. As I got a head massage whilst getting my rotting feet re-taped. Katie was off into the night to the checkpoint for the next stage so I rested in my hammock contemplating the next stage of 105 km. As I rested in my hammock I felt a judder and suddenly fell in the darkness to my arse on the sand, my hammock had come loose… much to the nearby Brazilians delight, I found the funny side and re-tied and went to sleep as it was up at 3am for the 5am start. As a slowly rested my eyes, I could hear Jungle Jim getting annoyed with the noisy bombaderos, and fair play to the man, he just got out of his hammock and moved it. by this time it was arround midnight so I think I fell asleep as I was awake at 3am to get the head torch on and prep some breakfast.

Stage 3 – 37km

Due to some technical difficulties and signal problems there were some issues in updating the blog, so having just returned to the UK, the following is an overview, albeit slightly late of the days that followed…

Stage 3 got off to a good start. Another early swim across the river and the obligatory missing of turning into the deep dark jungle. A few hills started to take their toll on the body, followed by some more hills, then some more. Up and down, through swamps and through checkpoints. Got to the final checkpoint and was shattered. Had to get ,my back taped up as the sun burn had started to chafe and go a bit septic… still managed to get the bag back on and started to speed off at a pace, even got into a jog which at this stage for me was unthinkable. But as fate would have it I ran in the wrong direction and lost the track. About turn and back the way I came I managed to pick up the tape again. Saw Katie at the checkpoint which was great. Darren from SKY IQ had fallen into the spikey plant and was walking back with the bombederos with things sticking out of his arm ‘ cant move it ‘ he said. Nothing would stop this man, not even loss of feeling in his arm. ‘ill get it taped up and catch up with you in a bit’. Funily enough about an hour later, he and the super smily Jin from South Korea zipped past me at break neck speed, flying over the trees.

I managed to get to the final hill before base camp – a steep incline down which required rope and some severe digging deep to get the few final feet out the way. Base camp tonight was in the heart of the jungle (formerly the cut off stage 4 from 2009). The Jaguar zone. Craig had spotted a jaguar, the bombedors shot a monkey out the tree (target practice) and I finally got into camp with sore feet. The jungle was now taking its toll. Dehydrated and unable to eat my expedition food (other freeze dried meals available) but I got my back and feet re-taped with some blister popping, hot needle action and some tender foot stroking from the medics. Early bed as another early start for stage 4.

Stage Two – 24.8km

Ok so this was the ‘easy ‘stage. Early start due to rainfall waking everyone at 4am. Spot of breaky, taped up back due to ruck sack rash and ready at the start line for the swim start. Katie joined in as Jungle Jim wanted a guide so lifeguard Katie came to the rescue. The countdown began when i realised my front pack with my race snacks wasn’t waterproofed…oh well. We all pegged into the rather cool river and swam to the other side. With all the kit waterlogged it was a quick wring out and off we went. Flat terrain all the way with the first check point not far into the course. The rather bored medics (as nobody has really suffered too much) kindly chatted away an ensured we were watered up (2.5 litres enforced ) and off again. Good pace with Guy and Jacob (Reading lad, works at Royal Berks Hospital where I was born !) amongst lizards, poisonous frogs x2 and some rather odd caterpillars. Checkpoint two a young gent called Craig sat on a branch incorrectly which flicked young Jacob in the head, so he had to wait at the checkpoint a bit longer which made the medics happy as they had something to do. Guy and I plodded on, the heat starting to make me a little weary and legs going a bit wobbly. But we cracked on and got into checkpoint 3 with the final stretch to the finish where we were greeted by Katie and Guys daughter Annie.

Bags off and a trip to the medic tent as due to the water crossing, my feet had got waterlogged and the skin had started to split in the toes. A bit of friars balsam squirted and some dressing which made me scream to high heaven. Still no pain no gain. A trip to the massage table where the locals went to work (sounds better than it is, this aint no spa ! and with whatever they are using going into my slashed legs, was no beauty treatment). Anyway, all done, taped up and a trip to the hot water to beef back up some expedition food, freeze dried Chicken Tikka. Yucky poo. But its 800 calories and I need to fuel as tomorrow is nicknamed the ‘mutha fucka’. 37 kms of hills and swamps. This will be the big test for most of us, to the locals a breeze.

Anyhoo, apparently there is a picture of me on the official www.junglemarathon.com website finishing stage 2 thanks to the legend that is Gil.

Katie has gone out of camp to checkpoint 2 for tomorrows race tonight, gets to stay in the jaguar zone with the medics and armed guards (to protect from the big fluffy cats). To the boys and girls of 2009, this is a completely different race. Less people (still full crowd of 44/45) but everyone has finished so far. So easier than that dreaded day one, so far…

So, a spot of hot chocolate and in bed by 8pm – rock and roll.

Thanks again for all the messages.

Bird x Ah Ahhrrr !

Stage One – 22km

Early start, 5am following a rubbish sleep, cock wrestling at 3am (Americans call them roosters), more mango s falling on Katie, there was a nervous energy around camp as the head torches were on, hammocks put away and bags being packed ready for the race ahead.

The hot water wasn’t ready until 630am and the race was starting at 7am so there were a few tempers rising. Katie and I had our breakfast and coffee at around 645am then it was a quick final kit check and press on to the start. People were excited, I was crapping myself but the countdown began and we were off, suddenly we were running. A steep incline at the best of times isn’t easy but with a 16kg back pack is another story. But I made off well and got into the centre of the pack (about 44 people in total), where I suddenly remembered what happened in 2009…cramps and vomiting. So I hung back and allowed the pack to thin out. Caught up with Guy the vet who is here with his daughter and we cracked on at a fairly good pace. Wasn’t long before we got to the first checkpoint for an imposed 15 minute rest for all runners (due to the dehydration/comas from 2009). Top up water and a small swim through the river followed by some clambering through swamps for 3km. Check point 2 was a welcome rest through to checkpoint 3 where I had cool water thrown over me and took some footage of a local monkey, more flat until checkpoint 4 when it was the start of the ‘hills’. This is a different stage one to last time, but some of the course was familiar. Like thesethe steep inclines up then down, up then down up then down. My heart wouldn’t stop beating and by this point, my clever swimming yesterday (nice spot of sun burn !!) started to impact on my back and backpack. It was like a very heavy hot iron being pushed into my shoulders. Sod bikram yoga, I think Ive lost a few kg in weight today, the sweat was pooring off. At the bottom of one of the hills there was a runner sitting with his head in his hands not wanting to go on. ‘So many darn hills man” (American). Checked he was ok and carried on.

At this point I started questioning the whole thing and wanted to stop. Guy kept stopping to take photos and point out the wildlife, but at this point I just wanted to get back and see Katie. And take off the bloody ruck sack !! As we approached the finish line, some local children ran with us grabbing my hand as we crossed the line. As I shouted the Bird call, one returned so I knew she was here to meet me, Katie. Totally magical. We’ve kept one of the small children for the mantel piece when we get home.

It was bag off, water and up with the hammock to get my gear ready for the next day.

Katie s day on the other hand was also eventful. After waving off the runners and clearing up the base camp, the medical team left without her. So she spent a few hours mixing in with the locals until one of the local support team realized she should be somewhere else. They have a saying here ‘TIB – This Is Brazil”. I.e., don’t expect anything to go how you think it should…those that have done the race before will know what I mean, mixed messages / communication doesn’t really happen. She managed to get a small boat to the finish where she met the finishers in true ‘Shelly’ form despite the challenging journey there.

Daniel Dillon, a Glasgo lad came in first from the International squad in a superb 3hrs 54 – the 15 minute breaks, 2hrs 54. The rest of the crew did really well with a few of us stragglers coming in later, I managed 5 hrs 27, 34th place (on track to beat my 37th place in 2009!). And a few more behind me 7-8 hrs. No major issues with people, apart from feet, bit of dehydration but nothing serious…yet.

Fed, watered and ready for some perperami. Early night and see what tomorrow brings. Its hot, humid and Im sunburnt, but I love it here !

Many thanks for the messages – means a lot.

Peace and much jungle love

Tx

Arrival at Basecamp

After an interesting trip down the Amazon river, hammocks squeezed next to each other and banging into each other as well as an early rise to the chug of the boat, we caught up with a few familiar faces and new faces to boot. At around 8am we stopped the boat near a beach and all jumped off to cool off, although the Amazon river is on the warm side.

We were then notified that the base camp this year change due to the old base camp village being torched. It was because of the envy of a neighboring village. The new venue, half way down the ‘old’ course, was a very sweet local village which involved getting into smaller boats and back and forth until all were on land. The process taking over 4 hours! Runners first of course, so the medics and helpers, young Katie Sheldrick included, had to remain on board.

Runners on land rushed to the camp to set up hammocks. Tom Bird esquire managed to set up right under a delicious mango tree. A few ripe mangos hitting the floor with an almighty thud. We were greeted in village by the local school children with traditional song and dance, a sight to be believed and hopefully the KODAK footage does it justice (thanks KODAK).

Hammocks up and the final crew on land, it was time for some local fish and rice in a watery soup which was delicious then more local dancing and in beds by 9pm. Unfortunately due to Katie s and my hammock location being like a battleship game with mangos falling to the ground throughout the night’, one hit Ms Sheldrick on the head during the night…much to the amusement of the Sky IQ team, Darren and Aaron, who were with me in the 2009 race.

After a restless night for all and early start with a swim with the dolphins at 7am, just the most random sight to be seen. More kit checking (including some of the generous Blacks kit) , medical briefing and chats about kit, race tactics and food plans – make s the whole event feel more real again. Gil, a local guide who has been involved in the race for years, made an inspiring speech about all the animals we will encounter this time. He also tells us of a recent jaguar killing. He assures us that it is a bit random and that we should be ok, he hopes!

Katie is still awaiting instructions but we think she maybe updating the official www.junglemarathon.com website – check it soon !

My pack is 13.4 kg (measured by Jim Binks who’s pack is coming in at 8.2), and everything is good to go. Stage 1 tomorrow and everyone is getting excited…kind of….

It’s 3:30 and the medics for check point one are off and checks 2-4 are soon to follow. It looks like the race is ready and set.