Sunday, 8 July 2012


This blog is brought to you by the number 17 - Not sure why...?

Ironman Switzerland for 3 Smiddy riders and secret training
Three Smiddy riders have stayed on in Europe for a further two weeks to compete in Ironman Switzerland on July 15. While Katrina and I have set up camp at my mate Russel's home in St Paul Jarnat in the heart of the Pyrenees's, Johnny 'Bad boy' Regan has gone off solo at a secret training camp that he has told no-one about. So secret is this camp that not even his partner Kath knows anything about it. The last I heard she was still wandering around Europe looking for her bad boy. Johnny is going to Switzerland not to muck about. He has trained the house down all year for this one event, he is lean, he is mean and no he is not a fighting machine, but a terminator! I fear for any competitors that get in his way. I wish I could give you more of an insight into how Johnny trains, but that is all I have. So for now you will have to be entertained by Kat and Shark training stories. More Bad news to come once we reunite in Zurich on July 12.

Anyway I promised a story on the epic run that my old mate Russel O'Malley took me on. Katrina must have women's intuition as she sat this run out and was content with a 40 minute run on her own. Secret training by Kat maybe?

Anyone for a short easy run or a swim but bring your swim cap!
It occurred the very next day after Russ tried to snap freeze me on the descent from Col De Porte in pouring rain with windchill factors in the single digits. The weather in the mountains can change so quickly and for sure the next day, the clouds and rain disappeared and was replaced by a mildly warmish sort of 30 degree day. Previously that morning Russel had introduced us to the local pool at Pamier; well worth the 30km drive as it was an excellent facility with a 50 metre outdoor heated pool, quite rare for France, and an indoor 25 metre pool, a diving pool and a heated spa and a kids play pool, which was full of senior citizens doing aqua aerobics. The pool rules are strictly enforced in France, so for Katrina and I, coming from the very relaxed nature of the UQ Aquatic Centre, it was a real eye opener to find out that a life guard watches your every move. I made the mistake of getting into the spa after I had finished my session and took my swim cap off. The cap detective was on to me faster than you can say, goobily gooby gop 17 times... A swim cap must be worn by everyone regardless of what body of water they are in at the time. Just to be on the safe side even when I went to the toilet and had a shower I wore my cap! I spotted Kat drying her hair under the wall mounted hair dryers after her swim and I was close to dobbing her in to the pool authority's for not wearing a cap. While I decided not to stoop that low I did insist she wear her cap while walking to the car in the car park...

Now where were we?
Anyway the point I was trying to make when I side-tracked to the swim was that we had a swim, followed by a late lunch at 2:30, before heading off at 4pm for what was supposed to be a 2 hour run. For Russ it was a 2 hour run, for Shark it was 4 and a half hours. This is why... I have learnt from experience that to run just after eating is akin to getting drunk and eating 17 meat pies and running 17 X 400 metres on the track on a 2 minute time base. At some point you are going to feel very unwell and wonder why the heck you even bothered to start. That was me, right from the gun I was a wounded warrior. Russ meanwhile has a cast iron gut and can eat 17 cows and still feel good while taking me up a 17% gradient climb. Not one to make excuses but how's this for an excuse? Not only did I have a full gut of food, but with 1000km's and 14,000 plus metres of climbing in the Pyrenees' over the past week in my legs, I think I was a touch tired. But as I stated in my last blog; adventures with Russ are few and far between and I needed another memory to last until the next time I see my great mate. So with a ragged breathing pattern that suggested I was about to have a heart attack, while Russ was mildly amused that someone could make so much noise while running so slow, I pressed on all in the name of another Shark/Russ experience.

The story of a snail
Two kilometres into the run Russ said if I needed water that the small village we were passing through had 4 fountains where I could replenish my thirst. I don't think he expected me to stop at all 4 of them! Spread apart by just 50 metres each. It was more a passing comment for the return leg I suspect, but I intended to use all the stalling methods I had learnt over my 30 years in the sport to give my guts and glucose levels time to stabilise and for the head-spins to ease. The next 30 minutes we were on a dirt road and all my fuzzy mind remembers is constant climbing, rounding 20 corners to see more climbing, followed by more climbing. Thankfully by this stage Russ had cleared out and was running at his own pace. There is a limit to every athletes patience and I definitely tested Russ's ability to move slower than a snail moving across a slick road and oblivious to the car tyre that will eventually run it over and squash it flat into a sticky mess. I often wonder what thoughts that snail was thinking just before the crunch sound comes? A bit like mine I suspect on that endless hill; please put me out of my misery, I have been trying to cross this road all day, it is endless, I'm hungry, tired and damn thirsty... Crunch!

Never suggest try and catch me if you can in the Pyrenees'
Finally we crest the top 6km's into the run at 1000 metres and the view of the Pyrenee' countryside is breath-taking. I can certainly guarantee by this stage my breath had been taken! Russ assures me this run will not only make my Ironman marathon easier but the views I can lock in my head and pull out when needed in the later stages of the marathon. Another 2km's up and down the road, passing through another 2 tiny villages, all with cool running mountain water fountains, and we are 1 hour into the out and back run and still 2km's from the turn around. Russ, if by himself would be at the turn-around by now. Finally I soldier up and say to Russ; "Mate how about I turn around here and we make a game of catch the fading Shark?" Russ tried unsuccessfully to contain his excitement. He was like a dog that had just been let off the lease. Without hesitation he calmly -in a peeing his pants type way- said; "Great Idea mate!" So off Russ went and I was determined he would not make up 4km's on me in 1 hour.

Getting hopelessly lost
Well true to my word, I did not let Russ catch me. Technically speaking, although he got back to the house 2 and a half hours ahead of me, he did not actually get to see and pass me and snigger, "I got ya". No, while Russ was running at warp speed and trying unsuccessfully to catch the Shark -he would have had better luck at locating a ghost- I was well and truly lost high up in the mountain about as far away as you could physically get from his home without being on the Moon. Only a slight exaggeration there... Without going into all the gory details of what it is like getting lost in another country, here are the gory details! The joy of getting lost involved being attacked by 3 dogs all at once, (lucky there weren't 17) bitten 17 times by something akin to our horse flies back home, scratched from head to toe by the thick scrub as I tried to turn getting lost into a short cut and failing miserably so that I had to backtrack through it all over again, starving hungry after 3 hours and eating wild berries that Russ had shown me was safe to eat, but making me thirstier than an alcoholic 3 days into his rehabilitation, legs that were at the point of collapse and a fading Pyrenee's twilight that was fast turning to the opposite of bright daylight, as in deep dark black night, where scary things come out and run up your leg.

The joy of getting found
I finally found my way back to the last village where I had turned around early while Russ continued on like the excited Joey that he was. Russ is 55 years of age and makes most 20 year old athletes look ordinary. He is a picture of health and his fitness levels has seen him finish as high as 3rd at the Hawaiian Ironman. By now my mate had showered, eaten, packed the car and was driving to the airport 90 minutes away for his return trip back to England to start work the next day. He had left Katrina with a map and asked her to drive to 3 villages to see if she could spot me. Both were concerned by this stage, as I knew they would be, and I felt bad and stupid for being so stupid and bad for getting lost! Back at the village I still had no idea where to go, so I eventually approached an elderly couple, same age as me (50) and as my French is so bad I spoke to them in English but with a French accent! Which -came as no surprise- managed to confuse them even further. Seriously what was I thinking. Eventually I wrote the name of the village where I was from, St Paul Jarnat and their eyes lit up in recognition. The old fella, 50, pointed for me to get on the back of his quad bike, I looked at the speedometre and noticed, with a smile on my face, it had done 10,017 km's. Who would have thought? That bloody number 17 again! So there I was riding on the back of a quad bike, no helmet, the wind in my hair, not much left of it as did I mention I am now 50? And just down the road we come to a stop and there is the track I had been searching for all day. I muttered Merci, Merci, Merci a hundred times and shook his hand vigorously in gratitude. From there it took another hour to get home and just as I arrived at 8:30pm, Katrina had just returned in our hire car after having no luck locating the missing Shark.

Reunited and food glorious food
Katrina's first words to me where, "Thank god I don't have to revert to plan B, as I didn't know what plan B was!" She was clearly relieved to see me, as I was her. I shared the short version of my amazing navigational skills that got me the opportunity to see parts of the Pyrenees' that no living person has seen before. She can read this version for a more detailed picture. My priority was now fluid then food and more food and then some more food. I celebrated how much I liked food by eating it continuously for the next 3 hours (would have ate for 17 hours but had to sleep) until midnight. I then turned into a wolf and ventured out into the woods again. Okay, I admit it, I am lying, I went to bed in a warm cosy single bed and dreamt of being a wolf in the woods.

And that is my short story on my long run! Hope you enjoyed it and if you are lucky I might just tell you about how Katrina and I went looking for another Col to climb and found one called Col De Marmare at 1340 metres.

Take care out there.


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