day one

I dont think ive felt so close to death in my entire life. This is hard core. the front runners are built like machines. I started off well, jumping into the water then straight up practically vertical hills, for the first 3 kilometeres. checkpoint 1 was a welcome sight filling up with water (after 1 1/2 hours) and then carrying on more vertical hillls, checkpoint 2 was a tough one as people were starting to suffer.

7124_155772778154_569963154_2795358_5881334_n

Then came some down hills. Woo hoo !! 

The boa constricta was rather an amusing sight, althought ook my breath away slightly…

PA110054

As was the tarantula (excuse any spelling but Im shot to pieces) being eaten by a hornet !- they warned us about these and the heat but honest to god, i am starting tomorrows race with the fear ! i started to overheat and nearly passed out up one hill so took a break. ive found some people of a similar standard (walkers at the back) i have no idea how people run this thing – its a different world.

Ive set up my hammock next to the toilet as thats what happens when you are near the back !PA110063

 7hours 45 minutes to complete 15 km of utter oblitteration. still i chose to do this and i will suffer the consequences. its 420 local time pm and I am going to get some food and go to bed.

thanks for the emails of support, they go a long way. ive got some footage of me worbling away and losing the plot. i dont think i will want to do anything like this again.its rediculously tough.  I would rather do the MdS which is alledgely a lot more sanitised race and nothing like this – thats the Sahara race by the way.

Arrival at Base Camp

Day before day one of the race and all is well. Very long winded journey to get here but a beautiful journey down the river to the start point.

PA090028

Havnt slept much as hammcks arnt the easiest to sleep in. Have been warned about the dangerous animals, the humidity (its very hot here) but I am quite excited to get going ! There is a nervous energy around the camp with people checking kit, comparing supplies. Ive forgotten my tent pegs for the hammock but no major drama.

PA090033

 

PA090031

The film crew have done a great job pulling together footage and interviews and getting them online so quick

I was interviewed in my hammock today, see what you think !

This is it !

As the king of pop announced only a few months ago prior to his sad passing.
As I sit in my taxi to the airport, having a coffee contemplating my trip and Michael Jacksons recent passing I’m trying to comprehend what I am doing. I can’t fathom why on earth I am doing what I am doing but whatever it is, will hopefully be the fulfilling challenge it should be.
To make things a bit more challenging my travelling baggies have succumbed to the perils of jungle activity by leaving the flat. In picking up my new mountain rescue bag full of kit, rations and other bits and pieces, have ripped in places they shouldn’t. Pah! I think Ill be needing a holiday when I get back !

New bag

So I’ve spent my second from last night at home staring at my kit bag thinking oh dear. I have however today found Tesco s serve latte in packets, hoorah ! My full race menu is complete. Despite not fitting in the bag. Day ration packs currently consist of:
Breaky:
Powdered porridge
Latte
Race food:
Power bar
Viper bar
Sports beans
Viper drinks
Nuun
Peperami

Supper:
Fois grois terrine served on a bed of green salad, spinkled with…oh no, sorry it reads ‘chicken tikka’ powderd food. Hot chocolate
Apple with custard

My medical certificate has finally come back saying I’m 12 stone. I don’t think I’ve been that light since pre-beer / 18. Bit concerning. Time to beef up in my last couple days of civilisation.

Have been far to blase about this race and now have the fear of God in me. I must look danger in the face. The run the other way. Must plan next 2 days like clockwork.

Over and out.

Jungle Marathon – 1 week to go

www.justgiving.com/iamtombird

Ok – nerves kicking in.

Last night it really hit home when I hosted a charity screening of the film The Hangover (available on DVD and blu-ray 7th December !) hosted at the wonderfully splendid Warner Brothers screening room (thanks my wife Sarah for getting hold of the film print and persuding the powers that be to generously provide the venue for the evening, and to Caitlin for all your help on the evening).

The-Hangover_2

A wonderful evening attended by clients (thanks all for coming) friends( thanks friends and my personal trainer Neil McCutcheon for not showing up, see you next Tuesday ?), and of course my support crew including campaign manager Henry Majed, Dietician Dave Stevens, Medical Support Crew Liz Colton and friends, and Simon Fisher for his words of wisdom).

People were asking why I am doing this race. Why indeed???. I have no idea. Especially as Ive now got a week to go and when I was having my medical looked into last week I had to have ECG testing, BP scans (had to wear a 24 hour Blood Pressure monitor which kept on going off in meetings) and blood tests.

The ECG scan itself spotted a slight blip, or as they say “showed voltage criteria for hypotrophy’. Which in itself is apparently quite normal for endurance atheletes like me….

 

IMG00170-20090922-0910

The doctor phoned whilst I was in Tuscany last week to say Ive now been given the all clear ! hoorah !

ekg_heart

So last nights event raised over £800 for the British Red Cross – thanks to my employers, The Bezier Group for committing to the tickets ( just awaiting the cash now please….and also for those kind souls who paid hard earned cash for tickets).

Just been reading the course update…here s a summary:

Distance, the total course distance this year is 222km.

Due to all the heavy rain during the rainy season water levels have not subsided as much as normal so many parts of the course will be very wet and water crossings will be deeper than normal.

The first stage is still the shortest and really probably the toughest, as it has the most concentrated elevation. You really have to take it very easy this first day, if you don’t, you will never recover enough to complete the course.
Throughout the stage you are either going up or down, there is very little flat. The climbs and descents are very steep, you will need to use your hands on many of the climbs and also grab onto trees on the way down on the fast descents to steady yourself.

The second stage still has some climbs and descents but a lot more flat parts of the course and also three main areas of swamp crossings. Those of you wishing to increase your speed will be able to do so on this stage, but always be on the lookout for roots of trees and other natural obstacles in your path.
It is impossible to avoid going into the swamps, and you are likely to get lots of ticks. To remove them, you can either pull them out with tweezers if you do it early enough or smear some Vaseline onto the tick as it will then come up to the surface to breathe and you can pull it out then. They go for moist damp areas such as under arms, behind knees, top of legs, behind the ears…well basically anywhere….

Stage 3 is fast and brutal. A mixture of everything- plenty of flatter parts where you can increase your speed, some insane (!!!!!!) elevation, some water parts to it and it goes into one of the villages so you get a chance to see some local life. This is a very long stage, its nearly 38km. don’t hang around at the checkpoints for too long, you need to keep a steady pace to get out of the jungle before dark.

The 4th stage is mainly flat and a good stage to recharge your batteries before the long stage. There is only one climb, towards the end of it.
You do start it will a 250m water crossing………

5th stage is a combination of everything.You begin ith a water crossing of around 220m. There are plenty of fast parts to make up time and also the steepest climbs and steepest descents in the entire course. There are a huge amount of natural obstacles on the fastest parts, you will be frequently climbing over fallen trees. Always check what is on the other side before you put your foot down or grab onto a fallen trees trunk- this is a favourite place for snakes to doze. !!!
It is possible to make it out of the jungle before dark, but if you don’t you will have to stay at CP4 during the dark zone- this area of the jugnel has a huge population of jaguar and we cannot have competitors wandering round here in the dark. The jungle campsite is well protected. There is a campfire, guides with guns (I want one !!) and full medical support.
Once you pass this CP, the next CP is out of the jungle onto paths and trails through several little villages. it is mainly flat ( though there is a steep climb after CP6) and a few more hills between CP7 and 8. Some of it takes you down onto the waters edge along the shores of the Tapajos. If you do this in daytime there is very little shade, make sure you have something to cover your head.
The last few kms of this seem endless. The total distance for the long stage this year is 89.39km. There is one part still with a huge amount of water along the shoreline, so we will make a decision the week before the race whether to amend this and bring you onto the road if it is still deep as it would not be prudent for those of you doing it in the dark.

The final stage is along the stunning beaches of the Tapajos river and through several little villages. It is over 30km so still a long stage,with little shade. But there are several creek crossings to cool you down.

My hunting knife has turned up which makes me a little happier, just cant fit everything into my rucksack at the moment !

Hope that made interesting reading, I am losing sleep over it !!

I will endeavour to send more updates leading up to and from the jungle if my email update works from the Jungle – technology permitting.

Jungle Training – 3 weeks to go…Scotland

“Misty moors and swells of heather,
Thistle leaves as downy feathers.
Soaring cliffs to bracken plains;
Becalming so; the peaceful rains.”

The beautiful land that is Scotland. A long weekend in Gullan,  just outside of Edinburgh is where we set our scene, from ancient grudge break to new mutiny, where civil blood makes civil hands unclean…a training weekend was instore whilst visiting family. The beautiful surroundings of the East Coast lay setting to what can only be described as blissfull running. Hills, dunes, sea, rock and all in the stunning settings of the beach.

IMG00123-20090912-1033

Some trecherous terrain which led to grappling around and a few falls however aside from this, a thoroughly good bashing for the legs.

IMG00137-20090913-1129

The long run was eventful however, only covering 18 miles, it was a mix of terrain and also people whom I met on route. The most disturbing moment was when I accidently ran into a bird protected zone.

IMG00140-20090914-0925

Easy mistake to make however some people can be so rude !  An English couple, in Scotland, telling me I was ruining their weekend by scaring all the birds away. Armed with a massive camera and telescope they were most miffed.

Jungle Training – it continues…www.justgiving.com/iamtombird

4 weeks to go !  Training has been a challenge this week with shin splints and time in general ! I have had my typhoid and yellow fever injections, just need a bit of cholera for good luck next week !

This week  I met up with Mark Hines, author of several endurance books (available at all good book shops and online stores) and Excercise and Human Physiology Lecturer at the British College of Osteopathic Medicine. Mark completed the Jungle Marathon last year and was carrying out some research on “Endurance Atheletes”. As I fitted the bill (kind of) I was prepared to be guinea pig for some bod pod tesing and VO2 testing, ooer….

Marks tales of being attacked by Bullet Ants and people falling out of hammocks left me a bit nervous before he asked me to dress down to my lycra shorts and put on a swimming cap.

Session went well…

P9030003

He said it was to do with body mass index measurement but it kind of reminded me Seth Brundle in the Fly ! All said and done, I was a little bit lardy according to the results (it was actually the muscle size that threw out the figures and apparently the machines arnt that accurate anyway…).

A bit of Vo2 testing was next on the cards:

 

 

P9030007

Simple in concept but when the machine starts and the incline begins to rise, its only a matter of minutes before things start to get a little tasty. However for my age I fall into the superior category which in itself is better than excellent !

A few other tests were carried out such as bone density and another one which meant I had to balance on one foot with my eyes closed, whilst he took photos. Nuff said.

The rest of the week was spent training  – including runs into work, gym, swim and a good bit of ol Bikram Yoga.

My kit however is my current concern as I have yet to get all my medical supplies and have a few outstanding pieces to contend with. I did however manage to sort out my hammock. The snake skins arrived during the week so I was fully able test it, and I managed to get it up on Clapham Common. Phnerk.

IMG00103-20090906-1747

The excitement of trying to get into it was unbearable. But such a relief as it wasnt that complicated at all. Worrying over nothing.

My long run on the otherhand was a bit of a farcicle trip around London. Through the concrete jungle again, dodging cars, taxi, buses, tramps – and that was just to get to Hampstead Heath.

At Victoria however, whilst charging along to the theme tune from Chariots of Fire I managed to trip my feet, over onto the pavement with my rucksack falling on top of me and crashing onto my elbow and knee. As there were a few people around I swiftly got up and carried on running as though nothing had happened to soon later realise I had yet another gashing arm. When does it stop ! At this point I was only 3 miles into at least a 15-20 miles session. After much deliberation I thought, worse things will probably happen when Im in the Amazon so I may as well crack on with it. So I did.

The highlight of my run had to be at about mile 17, running back through Mayfair and past Claridges to see Chris Eubank (ex boxer) playing with his phone and carrying a nice little tanned man bag. To his credit, someone who is more accustomed to using his fists, I said “alright fella” and in his classic voice said ” urrr Helloooo” to my delight !

PHKP-52    

PHSE-26659

Jungle Training – Coastal Crossing Ultra 33miler, 3 estuary crossings, one big adventure

www.justgiving.com/iamtombird

Thurlestone-rock

Trip down from London was a painful 7 hour drive. Negotaiting tractors, combines and those ruddy caravans. Still arrive in Salcombe around 930ishpm at the lovely Sylvias home to  a warm reception. Quick introduction to the family then straight to bed for a 4am get up.

Gave myself an additional 15 minutes in bed which was a mistake. As as soon as I remembered what I was doing it was mass panic time. Kit check, water filling, teeth and of course hair. However I then started to get a leaky bladder (of a hydration pack kind) which was frustrating as it started leaking into my bag. Nightmare, still there wasnt much time for phaffing about so it was to the car for some sat nav time to save the day. Now as a rule and I should learn by now, Sat Nav doesnt always give you the fastest route so by this time (aprox 430am) I was storming through the country lanes of South Devon at 80mph trying to get to the collection point for the coach (the idea is to park at the finish point and then get taken to the start – easy).

Pict4270 - Edit

However I get to the car park at the Winking Prawn Bar and Restaurant where Im supposed to be meeting the coach – £5.90 for the car park ! and did I have any money for the meter….er nope ! so I rush to the bus expecting to find a bunch of friendly people to help with some change or such like,  however to be greated by what can only be described as fierce looking army macho fitness types who just grunted and laughed. At this point , my leaky bag in hand,  it was once again, mad panic time. The bus was on the verge of leaving and I couldnt leave the car anywhere. So mad dash back to the car, drove to a small side road, quick kit check, leaving bag and slammed by hands in the car door. Yelp in pain (by this time its 459am). Run down to the coach and sit next to a grunter who proceeds to wind down sunglasses and grunt  / sleep. So by this stage by bag is leaking over the coach, my funger is bleeding all  over my bag and I want to go home, back to bed.

45 minutes in the coach and then the driver cant find the start point so has to ask directions, this whole event for me becomes a bit farcicle at this point. Get to the start, lots of Endurance branded flags, people milling around and general running banter.

P8220003

6am registration

Hmmm what to do, Billy no mates signs in, gets the number “69” written on my hand and leg to much jovial grunts from the ultra atheletes who some of which, look as though they want to eat me. A friendly fella from Basingstoke comes to chat as it appears we have the same shorts and watch and we both dont really know what we are doing here. That said and done, he has been for a 28 mile run the weekend before, I had done a mere 18 (with backback mind !). we say our farewells and wish each other luck and make our way to the start and safety briefing.

This is when the panic subsides, the grunting stops all around and the buzz begins to hit as I realise Im just about tostart a 33 mile race. Like any normal race, the start marshal counters down with are you ready, set go ! and the race begins…

Trying to keep up with these ultra athletes seems quite easy for the first 6 or so miles –quite happily trotting along at a steady pace.

However as we all get to the first estuary crossing every one else seems to have a well rehearsed strip into the skimpies, pile everything into the dry bag and dive in to the freezing cold sea water below. I,  on the other hand have other plans, or should I say, no plan at all !

Firstly  – I hadn’t actually tried to see if my dry bag fitted over my rucksack however when it came to the crunch it did, but then adding my shoes added extra strain to the rather flimsy material. Then closing it the way as instructed wasn’t as easy as there was too much stuff in there to contain. Another factor I seemed to overlook was that many of the hardened ultra guys had some kind of bungee chord attached to them and their bag to allow for ease of swimming. Put it this way, I hope the photos of me doing doggy paddle and pushing a bag in front of me don’t appear on their website. Then there was the issue of cramp that suddenly appeared. My first reaction was laughter and then embarrassment, then pure fear. However after a while the pain subsided and I was able to continue my elegant traverse. Hitting the bank the other side, there was a photographer who persisted in taking photos of me getting out of the water. Firstly I was only dressed in my lycra shorts at the time, secondly Im normally prepared for such frequent occurrences and suck in my belly to hide the evidence of my fitness – this was forgotten. And thirdly it was very cold out there !  

Back on the trail,  the race continued in this vain until the second crossing where after we got to the other side, I went the wrong way. This is all very well and good but I didn’t realize for about a mile going in the wrong direction. Suddenly there was no coastal path to be seen. I referred to my race map (which of course I cant read very well as it just shows contours and detail I don’t understand – hope nobody follows me in the Jungle !

Through some freshly harvested fields it was a very pleasant route and I came across a country lane and took what in my mind was the right way towards the sea. The most sensible solution to this would of course be turning back however I wasn’t sure at which point I had gone amiss. So without wanting to waste time (and being a bit stubborn, I continued my quest for the path. Swearing loudly at myself by this point I stumbled across a lovely old couple and in my best queens polite English asked for directions.

Without further a do, I was chasing my route down towards the coastal path. Slight hitch was when I reached my destination point from my new found friendly old couple, there was still no path to be seen. In fact I was back in another field this time going in the opposite direction. By this point I was shouting at myself, shouting at the organizers and blaming them (never my fault) and cursing the whole thing. So with one foul mouthed swoop I said “ F@*# IT ! and ran towards the sea I could see in the distance, running quickly and jumping fences, bushes, getting stung to buggery on my legs and crossed whatever got in my way. Then, similar to when Bingham discovered Machu Piccu I found the path. At this point I wasn’t sure if I had cheated and missed part of the course out or added  miles to my journey. On close inspection of the map I downloaded from my GPS watch, I went an additional 2 miles ! I managed to catch up with a few people and surprisingly enough I wasn’t last !

Course     P8220013

Following this part of the adventure I continued battling against the extreme terrain until I came to the familiar terrain on my approach to Salcombe. There is something magical about this place that puts all worries to bed, the people are genuinely delightful and talk to you on your way and wish you luck. The scenery is beautiful and it takes over, adding about my 10th wind to the race and a rather comfy final 5 miles to the finish where I collected my Cornish pasty. A long day, a great day and followed by a chilled out journey back home with various incidences of cramping up in the car which was a bit dangerous at times but hilarious.

For my critics out there who think Ive gone mad. I have, but Im having so much fun going madder !

Peace. x