Back into the routine.....

.......and back with the pack! The Paras'10 at Colly was my 5th in all since the first in Catterick in September 2012, in fact I've only missed one since then and that was because Charlie was born. It was my third at Colchester and seemed to come around very quickly after the marathon, especially as I hadn't been able to train with the same intensity or regularity I had for the marathon. That was to be expected as my body needed a rest after running well over 500 miles in as little as 10 weeks, but the rest was almost forced upon me due to a very severe stomach bug that wiped out all three of us for well over a week, the week before the event, so the first time I managed to get a pack on for a proper tab was the Monday before Colly. I just broke myself in gently with a 7miler and 30lb and ridiculously despite not being able to train for the whole of the week before, I still cracked out nearly 7.5miles in 1:07. My only other tab before that I'd bagged at the end of April, just a 5miler, and that day got it done in 48mins, so it was and is very apparent that the marathon training had made a massive difference to my training and my fitness levels. So despite not carrying the full load and not even lacing up the boots, I felt that I could put in a pretty decent performance and probably for the first time, had a decent chance of breaking the 1:50.

Kit and bergen was packed, checked and double checked two nights before as always, and as always the nerves set in. I don't know what it is about doing the events with the pack on, but no matter how much I train, I'm always worrying I'm not prepared enough.......Certainly I wasn't last year, but for good reason, but with all the marathon training behind me, I'm now in better shape, fitness wise than I have been for some years.

Sunday morning we managed to get out the door when I said we needed to, which anyone with a small child will understand and know to be a feat of epic proportions. The journey was easy until we got just outside 'Shitham', traffic was at a standstill at Rivenhall, so I had to try and negotiate the back roads through Rivenhall, Kelvedon and Tiptree, we arrived at about 10, with me flapping, still wearing my flip flops and in desperate need of the facilities and I was well behind on my pre-event prep! 

Facilities frequented, registered and bergen weighed, I began to relax, among some of my favourite people, who had begun to arrive thick and fast. Chia downed, boots laced up and after taking myself off to give myself the rubber glove treatment with the Vas, I returned to the group and settled into the pre-event banter. There is no doubt that the before and after bit is far more agreeable than the bit of torture in between. I get a massive kick out the preamble, it's even better now that to Caz, the friends I do these events with aren't just names to her any more, but friends too, and Charlie, well he just loves the limelight! 

Loving the limelight....
Future tabbing machine.....
Pre-event photocall....
Just before the shout at about 1045, my Aunt and Uncle and Cousins turn up to see me off, which gives me a massive lift. The shout is given to get loaded up and in to the pen for the off, goodbyes to loved ones, and man hugs all round, off we trot, in anticipation of what will be a fantastic day, as it always is. It's also becoming the norm, that when we do these events, it's in the most trying conditions possible. It was already warm and just like Paras'10 Colly last year, we'd be doing this event on the hottest day of the year so far! 

I settled in alongside Skipper, if truth be told I was aiming to tab with him, but I just remember that when the gun went off, just putting my head down and settling into a rhythm. I don't remember much other than as we're going through the garrison heading towards Friday Woods, going past Limby and Nick Hore. That was the last I saw of any of our group until I was making my way out of the 'new' sand bowl at 7 miles. The first real tough moment came as it did last year at 3 miles just after the river crossing. I'd settled into a decent tab at that point, averaging 10min/miles and feeling comfortable, however, immediately after dragging yourself out of the water you are confronted with a swamp/bog that reeks like the garrison have been using it as a latrine for ever and a day. Instead of keeping moving, people seem intent on stopping and sinking, making progress slow and tricky, all the while the swamp is trying to consume your boots, honestly feeling like something is grabbing at them and trying to remove them from your feet. Once your out of there you have a little climb up a grassy slope which after being bogged down, feels like you're trying to negotiate Jacobs Ladder.

Swamp action shot....
The miles between 3 and 5 are by far the toughest on the Colly course, after 5 up the hill, it's then just a 5 mile slog back to Abbey Field (or used to be until the added sickener this year), and in the heat, much like I did last year, I suffered a bit in those miles, but I can't imagine I was alone in that. I was popping my Torq gels about every 20mins, and was getting plenty of water in me, so my energy levels didn't really dip too much, but those miles take it out of you and for me I definitely didn't feel like I recovered until about 6, at which point I managed to settle back into a decent rhythm. 

Getting up the hill.....
There isn't much respite out on that course when it's blazing out there. After 5 miles you're back in the woods for a while and get a chance to cool down a bit. Just as I'm settling down into a decent pace for the slog back, at 7 miles I notice a few tabbers on what looks like a loop. Having done the Colly event twice before, I knew whatever was coming, was new.

As I turned at the top of the path I saw what awaited us, a proper sickener in the shape of a sand bowl dug out of the ground with two sapping downs and ups, and although you're thinking 'really?' actually it's breaks up the monotony of those miles back, welcome or not! Just as I'm making my way out the sand bowl, I notice Limby and Nick making there way into it. At that point I remembered I hadn't really noticed many of my friends out there, and if I knew Limby, I knew that he would be gunning for me if he'd spotted me ahead. Part of me wanted to slow down enough to wait and finish with them, the other part of me, wanted to just get finished and just stick with the target I'd set myself. The target first and foremost was to beat my previous best time of 1:58, that was the time I achieved the first year at Colly, the day before Caz and I flew out to Cyprus to get married. 

After the sand bowl and buoyed by knowing I must have been going ok if Limby was behind me, 
I just got my head down and tabbed on.  I put in a decent mile, but then slowed massively as I hit the sticky stuff coming up to 8 miles. Once through that it's then out of Friday Woods and the slog through the Garrison and back on to Abbey Fields , those last two miles feel like a very long two miles. Just as I hit Abbey Field I'm already over the 1:58, so getting in on the 2 hours became the target. As I make my way down the finishing straight I hear my friends and family cheering me on, so I put in the customary dash to finish. I stop the garmin at 2:00:24! Caz greets me and as usual it's the best part of the event, her smile is just what I need to lift me and it never fails.


I drop my pack off after its weighed in, and wait for the guys to finish. It's pretty evident how tough it was out there as everyone looks like they've put in a serious shift. Again we're all standing together as we had about two hours previously, albeit sweatier, but feeling triumphant, after the fatigue has given way to the banter any way. It was also very nice to share a post-event moment with Sean Edwards and Paul Lee, two guys who were very important people in Lloydys life, they were there to celebrate Lloydy too that day, by putting themselves through the rigours of the Paras'10 for the first time, it's hard not to imagine Lloydy laughing his head off at the efforts but by the same token be proud of them too.

Post-event sweaty photocall......
With Sea and Paul....
A chance to say thanks.......with Stephen Cooper
Caz and I often talk about how many of the Paras'10 events I'll do, and I often reply "once I've got the 1:50 in the bag, that'll be it", but the truth is, I don't think I could give this event up. The people, my friends and everyone associated with this event makes it a truly special day, and it makes me proud to be there for the reason I am. Doing the Paras'10 events has given me a chance to do something positive in Lloydy's memory, it's also given me focus to keep putting my running trainers on, to keep myself fit and it's given me a group of friends that enrich mine and my little family's life. Paras'10 is in the blood.....and for that I'll always be thankful to my group of friends, those that I have the fortune of doing these events with and those that make these events happen. 


"You're all awesome, seriously, keep that sh*t up!"

As is customary I must reserve special mention for my wife, without whom, things would be a lot tougher and for my little boy, who brings me more joy than I ever knew possible xxxx. And of course my little brother, whos example drives me on, always a little further, big love lil bro xxx

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