Wednesday, 16 August 2017 17:02

Reflecting on Al Andalus (blog #20)

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Hi all, sorry its been so long (relief from you no doubt!) but I wanted to get today out of the way first.
When I left you last time I was about to embark on Al Andalus, 230k race in Spain. It was billed as being tough and my word was it. There is something about me and racing in Spain that does not bode well as my previous only ever DNF (Did not Finish) was there last year as a similar time.
The race was small but like many things that way, beautiful and perfectly formed. There was only 72 starters, nothing like the 1,200 that race in the Marathon Des Sables (MDS). For those of you who follow me in facebook, I did a “live” session each day, I hope that you saw just how beautiful, hot and hard it was. Unlike the MDS though we did not have to carry our kit as that was shipped to each finish every day, all we needed was water and food for the day.

Looking back at THAT hot & tough event...

The MDS is probably a tougher race as the attrition of looking after yourself in every way for a week takes its toll as well as the heat, sand and mountains but in the Sahara it does cool down at night and really is only very hot between 1-00 and 5-30 each day. It also has generous cut off times so you could walk the whole race and still officially finish. That is a very different experience to Spain where in Grenada, about 20 miles away, they had their hottest day on record when we were racing, 47.5c, the heat there started at 11-00 and just kept on going, when I was in my tent at midnight it was still 33c, relentless.

Unlike the MDS, you were in your own tent so there was a different kind of self sufficiency although with only a small field everyone got to know each other over the week which was one of the many highlights.

Everything was going well for me on stages 1 to 3, my hot yoga preparation before had got me well acclimatised and I listened to the race directors advice and took things easy, taking on lots of water and not pushing myself that hard. The first three stages were all finished comfortably in the cut off times and I was feeling good. However stage 4 all went wrong for me, it was the hottest day and also the longest at 67 kilometres or one and a half marathons. I was met by a mate who happened to have a house on the course, Duncan, and we ran/walked from checkpoint 1 together, thanks Dunc. I felt ok but took it easy taking on the directors inference that there would be a one hour extension to the limit that day as it was the hottest day. I should point out that the field had already reduced down to about 50 by the start of day 4, the climbs and heat were taking their toll.

I reached checkpoint 5 with 18k to go, I was pretty worn out and hot but confident that with 3 hours 15 minutes to get to the finish (allowing for the inferred extra hour) I would finish comfortably. As I was preparing to leave the checkpoint, the race director arrived and effectively told me and one other who had done the same as me that there would not be an extension of an hour after all and as such we were timed out, we did protest as no one had mentioned before that we were anywhere near a cut off but he was adamant that if we could not do the next checkpoint (10k away) in an hour (it was uphill and by now over 45c) then we had to stop. Being the honest guy I am , I knew that I could not run that fast at that stage so that was it. It’s a lesson learnt for me that in future races I need to stick to the original terms and not take “inferences” on (even though on previous shorter days there had always been an extension). Its all the more frustrating as I could have easily saved 5 minutes earlier in the day but more so that in the end those in front of me were given an extra hour to finish, something that I know I could have done.

The next day, we were allowed to complete the final stage if we wished, I had loads in the tank so smashed it and came in my highest place of the week but officially did not complete the whole event having done only 312k of the 330k, fair enough. The other guy and I who were stopped at checkpoint 5 that day were the only two forcibly disqualified although in total 31 others dropped out of their own accord so only 39 actually finished. I have to say that as an individual stage it was harder than anything I have ever done in any race before and I failed. I have attached a picture of me during he race if you are interested.

Overall though, its not important about day 4, what matters is the experience and memories. I made some new great mates, all mad, Maggie and Peter (living in a caravan for over a year whilst building a house), Peter K from Denmark (mad as trousers but so clever with it) and Frank O from Belgium who finished despite massive diabetes challenges every day, always smiling, to name but a few plus Neil from XNRG who I knew before, I will never forget you all.

Back to reality, today was the results of my latest blood tests, sadly there has been a slight rise, nothing earth shattering but I would rather they improve or stay the same than get worse, hopefully just a fluctuation. I guess more concerning mentally is a change in the frequency of the tests. For the past year they have been every two months however it was explained to me today that as I have been on my current drug so long there is a chance that when it stops working it will stop fast and as such they now want to go back to monthly tests. Whilst its not a reflection of my current scores it does make me think about my own mortality again a bit more, something I have managed to hide away from for a while most of the time. It’s a reminder that  I have done well on these drugs and exceeded the average time that they work for. The other thing is that I will start living (planning) my life in monthly cycles rather than 2 monthly, I guess that my mantra of live for the day is more important than ever.

Enough of my health as a more pressing matter you are all shouting is what about your”1,000 miles of madness” challenge for the year, as I missed out on a 45 mile race at the start of the year and now have lost another 18k by missing out on some of Al Andalus, you are all no doubt feeling short changed by sponsoring me for something that is looking a bit short!

So I have hatched a plan, I already did an extra marathon with the guys from Nat West in their London March for Men, I have now also entered a 53k race this coming Saturday (Hangman ultra), I am then off to Iceland the following Saturday to complete (hopefully!) Fire and Ice 250k (more later) and then am ending up running the Nottingham Marathon on the 24th September, that lot with what I have done will make 1014 miles which just exceeds the 1,000 miles so I had better do the last three events if I want to save face!

My prep for Fire and Ice has been good so far, I am already in training for my mega mad 2018 challenge (it’s a secret still but if there is a corporate sponsor out there then I would love to speak to you as its expensive!) so physically whilst still having the drug side effects I think that sensible pacing will see me through. I weighed my kit for Fire and Ice (as its like the MDS, you have to carry everything on your back for the week) and its very heavy as it has to include extra warm clothes, a bigger sleeping bag, thermal mat, gloves, more food and quality waterproofs. That brings me back to Facebook, I understand that there will be occasional good phone signals and as I think the scenery will be spectacular I intend doing more “Facebook live” events each day so if you are not a “Facebook friend” with me yet, please send a request, my picture is of me throwing water over my head in the desert if you are not sure what Kevin Webber it is. Facebook will also give me the opportunity to see any messages that you may want to send me (abuse and jokes always welcome).

My final event, the Nottingham Marathon is special for many reasons, it will signify the end of a massive challenge that I never thought I would be here to do. The number, 1,000, remains significant as that is roughly how many men a month die of prostate cancer in the UK alone. I hopefully will have raised a few more quid to add to the significant amount already raised through your collective generosity and my efforts. This is also a special number for my running mentor,  MDS tent buddy, ashes sprinkler (TBA!) and friend, Rory Coleman it will be his 1,000th marathon, not many people will do that in their lifetime. I could write a whole blog and more about what Rory has been through to get there including a major life threatening illness just over a year ago, he is my inspiration whenever I need it.

As ever if you want to support the end of my 12 months efforts, remember I pay all my own costs for my races, the charity do not fund them at all. Be aware though (he says cheekily), I will be starting my 2018 challenge page in October health allowing!!!!

In case you were thinking I am a bit of a quitter and whilst the 2018 “Secret main event” , I can tell you that I will be going back to Al Andalus in July 2018, unfinished business, I hope you would expect no less from me!

In between running and hospitals I have done some more presentations, the most memorable was for Prostate Cancer UK to all the National Football league clubs. Speaking to 200 from a stage is never my thing but the message is so important and hopefully through football more men will be aware of prostate cancer.  I want to be able to do much more for the charity still however I have realised that so much more can be done with your help which is why I remain eternally grateful for those of you who have done your own thing from my inspiration to raise money for them, I do hope that you do more for them in 2018 if you can?  I also have managed to have a great family holiday to Canada to see my brother in law , a fantastic time(Thanks Paul and family). The only shame however was a 9 hour delay on the way home but I guess that was just more time to spend with my family ( I am not sure they saw it that way!).

Finally, I just want to thank my family, friends, colleagues and employer RBS who continue to be just amazing, I could not fault any of them or ask for more. In Investment there is an expression “The pull to maturity” which is in effect about the closer to the end date the real value becomes just the face value. In a strange way that’s how I see my life, I am just what I am, no more no less and I want my “Face Value” to be something that is enduring and not something that I only was briefly, I implore you all to think about your real value in life and do your best to be it always.

Thanks for reading, next one after Iceland.
Kev


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