Monday, 31 March 2008

Rain drops keep falling on my head...

Last week we moved from "Aerobic Endurance Training phase to "Build-up Training" phase. It's only a minor step-up in effort, we do an extra run on Saturdays and run Thursday's run at a higher intensity.

Last Saturday, however, we were entered to walk the Three Peaks Trail Challenge Walk in Abergavenny (in Wales) - the Gold route, which is approximately 20 miles, so no run on Saturday but trekking up three 600 metre (ish) hills more than made up for it.

Jo and I did the walk with my eldest sister, Am, who lives in Cardiff hence has over 30 years of experience of walking in these Welsh hills. When it comes to trekking and hills, Am is no slouch, so when she later declares that this walk was the hardest she has ever done then you'll understand that it was an epic!!!

We started the walk at 8:20am. The weather was cloudy and mild...perfect walking weather, but the forecast was not good. The three peaks we were tackling, in order, were Blorenge (561 metres), Sugar Loaf (598 metres) and Skirrid (aka Skirrid Fawr - 486 metres). (Sorry I haven't given the welsh spellings, but man that language does my head in!!!).

So, anyway, first up was Blorenge. Thankfully the rain stayed away as we ascended this mountain as the way up was steep. The ascent to this peak was pretty busy as all the walkers were pretty much bunched up at this point, and most were taking layers off as it was hard/hot work going up. Initially it was probably almost a 1:2 incline, but later it became a 2:3 (or worse). Basically we were on our hands and knees crawling up this mountain. It was pretty hairy to be honest (especially as the ground was quite slippery due to weeks of rain) but somehow we managed to get to the checkpoint at the peak without incident. At the top we were buffeted by a strong wind (probably around 50 mph) but it still felt great - oh how things would change pretty soon!!!

It was pretty cold at the top, so we took shelter, put our layers back on and had a small break to take on food and hot fluid. The decent was nice and gradual and the route down was an easy boggy (if a little muddy) path, but then it started to rain :(

We took a break under a canal bridge in Gilwern as we figured it would be our last dry spot for quite some time, unfortunately it didn't protect us from the wind hence because we were stationary we did get pretty cold as we ate - so we didn't hang around for too long and headed on our way asap. The route up the 2nd peak (Sugar Loaf) wasn't as steep as Blorenge, but it was longer and it still peaked at around 1:2 incline. The weather was becoming brutal - the wind speed had picked up (around 60mph, plus gusts), the temperature had dropped and the rain had become heavier.

There was no smiles or rejoicing once we got to the Sugar Loaf peak checkpoint, five and a half hours into our walk. It was just too damn cold and miserable. We were in a hurry to get down to safer ground. There were several paths down, in a rush we picked one that headed in the right direction. The path down was pretty treacherous...steep and rocky and with a brutal wind blowing. The rain and wind worked as a well coordinated team - the rain tried to knocked your resolve and the wind tried to knock you off the mountain :(

It turned out we had taken the wrong path, but it didn't add much to our route, but we figured the right path would have been more sheltered from that blasted wind. We got back on track via a path that ran through some woods. It was nice to have some shelter from the wind and to hear yourself think again, but it was pretty grim....the woods were like a scene from Mordor (Lord of the Rings); grey, twisted and lifeless. We were cold and flagging, so we raided the chocolate in our "emergency rations" - with hindsight we should have taken a longer break in the shelter of the woods and taken on more fuel. We had been on our feet for over six hours and had taken on the bare minimum of food - not very wise in these conditions but it was just so wet out there that we had very little desire to stop and rummage in our back packs (even though the food was in waterproof containers).

The next checkpoint was outside a pub, the Crown. Note sure if the rules allowed us to seek shelter in the pub but we had to - just to dry out a little and to get a hot drink. We took a thirty minute break at the pub. There were other people in the pub from the walk, but they had decided to chuck in the towel and quit. It was tempting - but Am was raising money for charity hence we had to carry on, otherwise I'm pretty sure we would have called it a day too.

So we headed out, still feeling cold and miserable, to tackle our final peak, Skirrid Fawr. Skirrid Fawr mean sacred hill or holy mountain - it felt the gods were not pleased with us walking on holy ground because it rained and rained. As we were approaching Skirrid I knew we were in for a tough time as the summit was enveloped in a cloud. Even though this was the smallest peak it was the coldest and wettest. Thankfully the path up was pretty good - being part of a well used Beacons Way, otherwise we may have been forced to quit. We got to the peak at 5:45pm, 15 minutes before the checkpoint was due to close except there was no sign of the checkpoint tent. Visibility on the ridge at the top was limited to about 40 metres, so we weren't sure where the checkpoint was. I headed off in one direction and left Jo and Am resting as best they could in the elements. After about 150 metres I saw a vague outline of a tent and then headed back to Jo and Am...they had been a bit worried as they had seen me disappear into the mist. As the three of us made our way towards the tent the mist cleared and the wind died...almost as if the gods conceded defeat. Jo described it as being like the scene from "The Truman Show" - Truman is battered and almost drowned by the storms created by the producer, but he wont give up and in the end the producer knows there is nothing he can do to stop him and so the storms are stopped. I'm sure the gods could have thrown more at us - but you get the point, right?

Unfortunately our storms did not stop - after the checkpoint we headed right into the very strong wind to make our way off this final peak. Again, the path was very good, especially once we got lower down and out of the wind. The rain was relentless and now it was getting dark (and even colder). Eventually we hit the main road into Abergavenny and began the long march to salvation. This final leg was hard and wet, but thankfully we made it to pavement before it got too dark and we got flattened by the speeding traffic. We had passed about 7 people after our decent from Skirrid - I did not envy them behind us.

We finally arrived at the finish at 7:20pm. Eleven hours of hell!! The volunteers on this walk have been magnificent, from the poor souls stuck in tents on the peaks to the marvellous people that plied us with hot drinks, soup and cakes at the finish. Thank you.

As we left to get into our car and head home to a hot shower one of the volunteers shouted "see you next year". My reply? "Yeah, definitely. See you next year"!!! :)

Friday, 28 March 2008

Week 7 Summary (17/03/2008 - 23/03/2008)

Weekly Totals:
Exercise Time: 7:13
Running: 4x, 63.64km

Calorie Averages (daily):
Expended: 3230
Consumed: 2572 (Fat 35%, Carbs 45%, Protein 16%, Alcohol 4%)

Weight: 95.0kg
Body Fat(%): 25.0

RestHR: 46
MaxHR: 181 (estimated)

Thursday, 27 March 2008

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!!!!

The runs at the weekend (Easter weekend) were challenging - simply because of the awful weather we had in London. We had snow....snow in London at the end of March....ridiculous!!! Anyway, it felt good to get out of the house which just seemed a little too quiet without Lily.

Sunday's run was brought forward to Saturday (as Sunday's weather forecast was even worse). The run itself was easy...nice pace and we felt strong; I guess the weather took our mind of things. One minute the sun was shinning, then it would start snowing, then would come the rain, and then the hail, and then the sun....repeat until fed up!

Monday's run was supposed to be a regeneration was anything but! Jo and I felt like stretching our legs so we picked up the pace (and our heart rates). Did our fastest 10k for a long time - which is still pretty slow by most running standards, but it was fast enough for us....and it felt good. The weather was pretty dire again.

The rest of the weekend was spent lazing about - with just a little trip to Canary Wharf (on Friday) to shop and eat. We haven't been eating too healthily lately - as hard as we try to avoid the chocolate fest that takes place around Easter we always seems to give in :( Anyway, that kind of explains why my weight loss has plateaued at around 95kg lately. Hopefully I'll get back on track soon as it's pretty important for my weight to be reduced significantly if I am to have any chance of running up and down mountains in Colorado.

Gill (Jo's sister) asked about what altitude the TransRockies will be run at and whether we had any plans for tackling the altitude. Gill and Andy are travelling around South America at the moment, and they are both pretty good trekkers, hence it's a bit disconcerting to discover that they had problems hiking above 4000 metres.

The information we have for this years TransRockies Run states that percentage of distance at various elevations will be as follows:
7,000' to 8,000' - 3%
8,000' to 9,000' - 31%
9,000' to 10,000' - 28%
10,000' to 11,000' - 27%
11,000' to 12,000' - 10%
12,000' to 13,000' - 1%

So we're pretty pleased we don't go over 4,000 metres but we've been skiing enough times at altitudes of around 2,500 metres to 3,400 metres (which is where most of the race takes place) to know how hard it is at that sort of altitude. Jo and I are, therefore, going to invest in a Mountain Air Generator from Higher Peak ( The aim is to sleep in an oxygen depleted environment (same as David Beckham did when he broke his metatarsal ;) cool!) We will effectively be following the "sleep high, train low" philosophy recommended by most altitude training research. At least Lily wont have to endure sleeping with us "at altitude" - don't think she would have been too pleased!! ;)

It'll be a few weeks before we are up and running but I'll post an entry to let you know how we get on (that's if Jo hasn't killed me for disrupting our sleep - she likes her sleep!)


Tuesday, 25 March 2008


After the highs of my birthday, the following week took a turn for the worse as we had to have our lovely cat, Lily, put to sleep on Wednesday night.

Lily was a lovely, kind and loving cat. She was never ever aggressive; in the 9 years I had known here she had never once scratched me. She spent most of her time eating, sleeping and following Jo around the house. She was definitely mummy's girl. She rarely slept next to me...but she did so whenever I was unwell - which made those times particularly special.

Lily as she should be remembered

We had taken her to the vet on Tuesday as she had really cut down on her food intake - which for Lily was very most Sandhu's she liked her meat. She had also become very inactive - no more shouting in the middle of the night and no more trips downstairs to pester us for food as we ate our evening meal. Even without the discussion with the vet we knew Lily's days were numbered. She was deteriorating fast and we knew we could not let her suffer for much longer.

We did our usual 15km run on Wednesday morning - emotionally it was very difficult as Lily was constantly on our mind. Physically the run was quite easy as we were so distracted from the running that we were very relaxed as we ran. Later on Wednesday I went home for lunch just to check-up on Lily and to give her some treats.

Wednesday evening Lily's health had deteriorated further and we decided it was no longer fair on her to let her suffer. We made the very difficult decision to take her to the vet to have her put to sleep. We knew at the start of the year that this was probably going to be her last year - mainly because of the arthritis in her legs, but I had hoped she would have lasted to summer just so that she could have spent her final days in the sunshine, but it just wasn't to be.

Jo wrapped Lily up in a towel and kept her on her lap as we drove through London to the vet. Lily was very quiet (only one little squeak) but she seemed to enjoy the views of London at night, especially the London Eye. At the vets we stayed with Lily right to the very end - keeping our hands on her and speaking to her throughout so she knew we were with her. She passed away very quickly and with no fuss. I guess she was ready to go.

Returning to a home without Lily was very upsetting. We are so used to her presence that a home without her seems very empty and quiet. Going to sleep without seeing Lily and waking up without the Lily wake up call were both equally upsetting.

The healing process began on Thursday morning - with our morning run. It was important for us to talk about Lily, as she was when she was healthy rather than those traumatic final moments. We talked as we ran - hence it forced us to run at a nice easy pace. We continued the reminiscing once we got home after work - once the initial sadness of coming home to an empty house had subsided enough for us to remember the good times.

Jo had got Lily from a rescue home, but it was Lily that had picked Jo. Twice Lily had walked around Jo and sat down in front of her, looking up at her. That was a year or two before I had met Jo, hence they had built up a strong bond before I turned up. Lily has always been a bit apprehensive of me - I think I was bit large and loud for her, but the earliest memory I have of Lily is being woken up by Lily licking my nose - actually it was more of a kiss than a lick :)

That's the Lily we knew and that's the Lily we must remember.

Wednesday, 19 March 2008

Week 6 Summary (10/03/2008 - 16/03/2008)

Weekly Totals:
Exercise Time: 4:22
Running: 3x, 37.67km

Calorie Averages (daily):
Expended: 2926
Consumed: 2442 (Fat 34%, Carbs 43%, Protein 19%, Alcohol 4%)

Weight: 95.2kg
Body Fat(%): 25.0

RestHR: 46
MaxHR: 181 (estimated)

Monday, 17 March 2008


It was my 40th birthday (yikes!!!) on Friday - so it's been a pretty full week...

Training wise I managed to do a run on Tuesday to make up for the missed Monday run. Then Wednesday and Thursday were back on track - as per the training plan, but what I will say is that Wednesday's run was damn hard. It's this bloody weather. Wednesday was so windy - 30mph winds and gusts that I reckon were in the 60mph range - we were being thrown around by the wind, which never seemed to be behind us :( The weather makes a huge difference to you enjoyment factor - I don't mind the fact sometime when you run in heavy rain it's even better than a nice sunny run. The key for me is to be warm - I hate running when I'm cold, almost as much as I hate the wind. All I will say about Thursday's run is that Jo and I are a little too reliant upon our gadgets - I'm wondering whether we should do one run a week without our iPod (with it's Nike+ system) and without our Polar heart rate monitors, so that we are happy running without the technology so that if it fails during the TransRockies Run then we aren't affected by it and we don't throw a tantrum (not mentioning any names). Sometimes you need to learn to switch off - completely ;)

My birthday really kicked off on Thursday night when my sister (Am), from Cardiff, arrived at our doorstep - mega (pleasant) surprise. Jo and Am had a good laugh at my speechless state. Friday morning started with me opening lots of presents (mainly from Jo) and cards. Jo and Am then left for most of the day to leave me free play on my Xbox 360 - perfect day so far :)

I knew we were going out for a meal on Friday night, to a great Italian restaurant, Il Bordello, on Wapping High Street, but began to worry when enough booze to last me a further 40 years arrived on our doorstep. I might be a bit dim sometimes but even I sussed that something was afoot. Jo assured me that nothing was happening....tonight!!!

Saturday is a bit of a blur....basically the whole day was a surprise party. The day started slowly but then gathered pace as the surprise birthday party kicked into gear. The house was soon full of family, friends (some that I hadn't seen in over a year), cakes, lots and lots of presents and even more champagne. As you can gather I didn't want to disappoint so I did my duty and consumed plenty of champagne. My brother, Satpal, put together a DVD with a collection of photos of my life through the years - wow, that really was a (very happy) trip down memory late....I didn't need reminding of what a wonderful life I have had so far, or that (thankfully) my dress sense has improved drastically over the years!!! To cut a very long story short it was definitely my best birthday ever - so maybe life really does begin at forty :)

Mid-life crisis now that I'm forty? I can safely say that there's isn't even a little whisper of a mid-life crisis in my life. I'm pretty happy with my lot....I have a great wife, a brilliant family, weird and wonderful friends, a decent job and a healthy life. I wouldn't say no to a lottery (jackpot) win - but to be honest (a lack of) money doesn't stop us doing what we want with our lives....I am very fortunate....and I know it :)

We didn't do our Sunday run - a little worn out from the night before....but I'm not too worried as it's Easter weekend next weekend, hence I'm sure we'll add some mileage to our weekly total somewhere along the way. Anyway - on Saturday I had taken a trip down memory lane....all forty years of it....guess that's enough distance for one weekend ;)

Tuesday, 11 March 2008

Week 5 Summary (03/03/2008 - 09/03/2008)

Weekly Totals:
Exercise Time: 5:05
Running: 3x, 44.04km

Calorie Averages (daily):
Expended: 2893
Consumed: 2357 (Fat 32%, Carbs 47%, Protein 20%)

Weight: 96.2kg
Body Fat(%): 25.5

RestHR: 46
MaxHR: 181 (estimated)

In search of consistency

The most important ingredient in successful training is consistency. You gain far more from training if you are slow and steady and don't get injured etc. Last year my training for the Helsinki marathon was very poor - good one week but injured the wonder Helsinki almost killed me!! Anyway the last few weeks haven't been great since I missed a few runs due to my ankle injury, then Jo got a cold and missed a couple of runs and then during the last week I got a cold.

Getting a cold during last week was a complete surprise to me....the training hasn't been too stressful and we've been eating quite well. All of a sudden I came down with a cold on Tuesday evening...but managed to do the Wednesday morning run, which seemed to help (hence I went to work) but by the end of Wednesday I had lost the battle so was unable to do Thursday's run :(

Was pleased to recover by the weekend as we went up Manchester way to spend the weekend with my old university friends Amrik and Negin (and their three lovely kids, Yasmin, Kamran and the little monkey Kyan). The weekend was great, the kids kept us entertained, Negin kept us fed (and healthy) and Amrik ensured we went out for our Sunday run by going along with us on his bike.

The drive back home wore me out a bit and I had a bit of a relapse on the cold (probably didn't help that Jo insisted on having the car window open...grrrr) hence wasn't up to running on Monday (will do it on Tuesday instead). Guess it wasn't helped by the sweets we ate in the car and the big Domino's pizza we had when we got home (the fridge was empty and the shops were closed!!!). But what is done is time we go away for the weekend we'll make sure the fridge is full of healthy stuff for our return ;)

So looking forward we're declaring war on illness - we're going to eat even better and even though it's my birthday week I wont be going mad on the booze (but ask me again after Friday!).

Wednesday, 5 March 2008

Girl Power!

I thought Sat was getting far too much air-time on this blog so time for me to step in again!

After the minor setback of a head cold last week, this week I'm back to full fitness. The 15km run into work today was really enjoyable - just as it's meant to be. It definitely helps having Sat for company as we can use the time to catch each other up on stuff that we either don't have time to talk about in the evening or even to plan future runs and events together.

Another bonus this week is that, Freya, from the charity I'm raising funds for, Macmillan Cancer Support, contacted me earlier this week following a recent email I'd sent letting them know our escapades. Freya told me that Macmillan are very keen to provide me with as much support and guidance on fund-raising as possible. The promise of some PR and a running vest and I was a happy bunny! All I can say, is that anyone who's sponsored me already, or planning to - watch out - I am now armed with a whole array of clever money-raising ideas which I'm preparing to roll out over the coming weeks - resistance is futile! So please did deep and sponsor either/both of us as all the money Sat and I raise will make a big difference to our chosen charities - the links to our pages and to the charities themselves are just here to the right. ->

Thanks to everyone involved in supporting us so far. It means an enormous amount to us and gives us even more motivation.

Hasta luego amigos!

Tuesday, 4 March 2008

Week 4 Summary (18/02/2008 - 02/03/2008)

Weekly Totals:
Exercise Time: 6:55
Running: 4x, 57.25km
Elevation: 2280ft

Calorie Averages (daily):
Expended: 3193
Consumed: 2213 (Fat 27%, Carbs 51%, Protein 19%, Alcohol 3%)

Weight: 96.0kg
Body Fat(%): 26.0

RestHR: 46
MaxHR: 181 (estimated)

Monday, 3 March 2008

Where's spring?

It was Jo's turn to be unable to train for most of this week. She came down with a cold on Wednesday, hence was unable to train on Wednesday or Thursday. My Wednesday run was initially quite hard, mentally. Getting up before 6am and getting out there on your own and in the freezing cold was tough, but once I got going I quite enjoyed it.

Thursday on the other hand was a whole new kettle of fish - man it was tough. I try to do a hill session on Thursdays, but since there are very few hills in London I'm forced to run on the treadmill with an incline setting. The problem is that my gym, Fitness First, don't know the meaning of ventilation/air conditioning. It is very hot in my gym - I'd guess it's in the high 20s, and to make matters even worse it's also very humid. The body cools itself by sweating - the sweat needs to evaporate in order to cool the skin and therefore the blood. The more moisture in the air then the harder it is for the sweat to evaporate. The more the body struggles to cool itself the more it sweats. The more it sweats the thicker the blood gets and the harder the heart has to pump. I had to keep slowing down in order to keep my heart rate within the training zone (see training plan). In the end (after 4km) I had to reduce the incline to 4% from 6% because I was almost going backwards :(

So I don't think I'll do those hill sessions in the gym anymore, not for a while at least, as I think they are too hard for the current phase in our training.

Jo had recovered enough to run with me on Sunday, for our usual run to Greenwich Park. We decided that instead of running back from Greenwich we would do more loops in the park and then get the Tube back home. Although I found the run easy, Jo struggled. She was, I think, still dehydrated because of her cold earlier in the week - and the wine we had on Friday night with friends Julie and Bob :( On top of this she wasn't feeling well before the run. So Jo struggled to keep her heart rate down - it was in the mid 140s when mine was still below 130 (I felt very relaxed!). When we did the laps around Greenwich Park she struggled even more; the laps were pretty boring and so Jo had nothing to distract her from her discomfort which just made her more tense and therefore compounded the issue. To be honest runs like these are good training, it's mental strength training which is going to be important for the TransRockies Run, so it was good that Jo battled through and even had a smile at the end. The journey home on the tube wasn't great as we became very cold and Jo had to have a few minutes sitting on the floor to stop herself being sick. She was pretty knackered after that run. Don't think we'll take a Tube home in the near future; not until it gets a lot warmer.

So all in all it wasn't a bad week, although Jo wasn't well she battled through Sunday's run and gained some (more) mental toughness, and I was able to run on Sunday without my ankle support. The ankle still hurts a little but it's getting better despite the lack of rest :)

Moving on...I've noticed (via Googles Analytics) that we have quite a few readers from the USA, from all four corners of the country (not Alaska or Hawaii, yet). So please keep reading and post a comment or two (it would make my day). Also please spread the word - the more readers the better :)