Category: Paras 10 Training 2012

A 10-mile endurance race in military boots and carrying a 35lb (16kg) bergen


PARAS’ 10 Colchester – 21 October 2012 – P-Company Challenge … 10 miles in military kit with 35lb bergen

Been, done it, got the tee-shirt (literally). Actually I’ve now ended up with THREE tee-shirts – bit of an overload. One, I bought for training, the second arrived courtesy of along with a collection box … and the third one has a big ‘FINISHER’ emblazoned on the front. Well, one can never have too many tee-shirts, I suppose.

Erm … you’ll notice there’s been a gap since my previous negative posting and this one. That’s because there was simply no point blogging limited training and slightly exaggerated tapering. What can I say only that I flipped the positivity switched, sucked it up and got on with it. Pre-race, I managed a couple of 10k runs – just in trainers – and an 8-mile and a 5k tabbing. Ten days before the race, though, my feet were just destroyed from those boots. They are comfortable, surprisingly, so no blisters or anything like that. It was just the Plantar Fasciitis in my left foot particularly – Ouch!! I seriously couldn’t walk on it. Early morning is one thing, but I knew I had to be careful when I found my foot was throbbing all through the day, whether it was weight-bearing or not. I decided to err on the side of caution. Fitness was not going to be a problem so my ‘tapering’ was on the extreme side, i.e. nothing at all! Thankfully, I wasn’t trying to break any records and I hadn’t managed to do any training on trails so I kept my expectations low. My original goal was simply to keep ahead of the Death Truck, which was sweeping at the 3-hour mark. By race day, my goal was to stick like glue to 15-minute-miles and come in at 2:30.


The comrades in arms: Nicki Edwards, Daryl Lee Chard, Mark Ahlin and Alistair Pizzey
The Incredible Supporters: Caitriona Hyatt, Hannah Tull

Early start for daughter Caitriona and myself. Left the house at 5.45 a.m. and arrived in Fairyland a.k.a. where Daryl lives (a whole other story lol) around 7.30 a.m. Finally found the army base, registered and hilariously, at the age of 50, picked up my PARAS’ 10 PASSPORT  They don’t dish them out to ‘every’ 50-year-old, y’know haha

It was drizzly and grey but not cold. I got some very odd looks when I tried to weigh my bergan – could’ve been my age – or the fact that I almost fell over trying to lift it onto the hook. Turned out it was one pound overweight, but it was easier to leave it at that than start trying to remove stuff for the sake of 1 lb. The bemused expressions of the paras, though, changed to absolute horror when they pointed out that the water I’d be carrying would add on yet another 2 lbs or so. ‘Water?’ I said. ‘What water?’ They were shocked to the core that I wasn’t intending on carrying multiple bottles of water. I guess they thought I was actually going to be sprinting this race lol I didn’t dare tell them that it never occurs to me to carry water for anything less than a half-marathon. Besides, there was water available on the course, so what was the problem? Who knows?

Over an hour to wait, no cover and at the hot drinks stall my veganism soaked quickly into the mud underneath my feet and hot chocolate was the order of the day. Nicki, Mark and Hannah joined us and we amused ourselves mostly watching Mark’s heart rate monitor climb to ludicrously high levels as start time approached.

It was in the starting pen at warm-up time that Nicki and I realised we were somewhat in the minority here. The warm-up made me laugh a lot. No Jane Fonda step-touches, side bends or gentle toe-tapping here – all the sound of Cher. Nope! The gentle warm-up was good old army style knees-up, sprinting on the spot, pumping arms with a random partner, push-ups and plyo-star jumps. Fantastic.

The starting pistol turned out to be a cannon so no excuses for missing it! Nicki and I headed out at a good pace and I threw away thoughts of keeping to a certain pace and decided to ignore my watch completely and just do what I could. I’m always fearful of going out too fast (although in terms of ‘my’ pacing, this is all terribly relative haha). The previous night, however, I’d been reading a fabulous ultra runner’s views on this. His belief was that the majority of ultra runners slowed down in the latter part of any race (elites excepted) so in terms of racing you could either start fast and inevitably slow down or start slow and, yes, inevitably slow down anyway! It made me laugh a lot. It’s so true and 10 miles is by no means a ‘long’ distance so I decided to go with that philosophy and just ‘go’. Of course, it helped a lot having Bootcamp Machine Nicki running with me. I surprised myself and loved myself and felt extremely proud of myself that by the 5-mile marker we hadn’t walked and our pace – whatever that happened to be – hadn’t dropped. It was a great feeling – particularly for someone like me who will finish no matter what but never quite manages to leave everything on the trail. Yup – that still needs doing!!

The reaction of the paras at the weigh-in as regards my hydration worried me slightly and I started doubting myself. Stupidly, I subsequently grabbed the Lucozade they were handing out at the first of the two stations. Mistake. I gulped some down out of guilt and my body immediately screamed at me for being such an idiot. Yuk! Sugar, sweet, sickly … and all I wanted was water to wash it down! I grabbed water at the next stop and shouldn’t have bothered. I took a few sips and then spent the next 3 miles worrying about the damn bottle haha My environmentally-friendly head refused to let me chuck the plastic bottle into the woodland. I debated throwing it politely at one of the paras marshalling the route but every time I passed I just thought it’d be really rude so ended up carrying it. I know, I know, no big deal, but these little things take over and I HATE CARRYING BOTTLES!!!

Actually, I think the constant whining about that water bottle was merely a way to distract myself from the fact that I’d lost all sensation in my right leg. Damned ITB kicked in quite quick but I was determined to ignore it and it was desperately trying to make sure I didn’t, resulting in my leg literally giving way underneath me every now and again. That is all I’m going to say on the matter because for every darn race I seem to have some excuse why I couldn’t go further, go faster, blah blah blah. Bit fed up with myself for doing that. Yes, I’m injured. No, I can’t finish this race the way I want to and yes, I’m going to take time off and rebuild my knees after this until I’m back to running injury and pain-free again, ready for 2013. Done it before and I’ll do it again. Enough said. So yes the second half of the course had its ‘down’ moments. The ‘ups’ were the mud, which was hilarious, tough, mad, slippery and also made for some guilt-free walking (lol) – and of course the water, which I personally loved.

Three miles to go and Nicki was still keeping up that unbroken jogging stride. Head was down and nothing short of a 20 ft wall was going to stop her. My ITB was really inhibiting my running so I was down to Run 10 Stride 10 rhythm which I kept up relentlessly all the way to the end. If there was a downside to this day, then it was the finish. That last mile, I wanted to finish strong, instead of which as much as my head kept saying ‘Go’, my leg resolutely refused. I tried and tried and bloody tried and it just wouldn’t happen.

But what can I say? I crossed the line upright and at a run … and crossed it a whole 18 minutes ahead of target. That means … well, that’s a whole lot better than 15-minute miles. That’s a few 14s and a number of 13s – and I never thought that was going to happen so WOO HOOOOOOOOOO!!

Nicki steamed home a good 4 minutes ahead of me. Incredible effort. Mark had also been tabbing and stormed through in some ridiculous time – 1:33, I believe! Totally smashed the paras’ entrance cut-off of 1:50. I forgot to ask what his heart rate was at the end. I think his HRM had probably burnt out at that point!

Daryl – that crazy kid is an amazing runner and definitely one to watch out for!! He wasn’t tabbing but smashed through the finish in 1:07. Extraordinary and inspirational. Daryl, you focus that training and you’re going to be gracing many podiums (should that be podia?? Haha) before long.

Hannah and Caitriona – huge thanks for the support, the photos, the entertainment. Between the pair of you, lunch was hilarious. Shame it couldn’t have lasted longer but the gnomes needed to be deposited back to Fairyland before it all disappeared in a puff of smoke …

FINAL RESULTS: Gun time: 2:12:09 Chip time: 2:11:31

But Hey! What’s the use of age grading if you’re not going to use it, eh??? LOL

I knew I was going to enjoy being 50 PAHAHAHAHAHA

Pain, Frustration, Physio, Decisions

Tuesday training

Oh, hellooooooooooooooooo negativity! Grrrrr it’s not often I sink under the pressure of negative thoughts but by the end of today’s planned 8 mile walk – first time with 35 lb Bergen – I’m feeling pretty beaten.  I even found myself admitting that I don’t think I’m going to be able to do this!

That didn’t last for long, of course. I’m not one to be kept down for long – but I’ve had to reassess. Yes, I will do this damned challenge and I WILL cross the finish line – just not in the style that I’d originally hoped. I’d hoped I might be able to chase a time (that’s a ‘me’ time, not the paratroopers’ time lol). My goal now is simply to not be picked up on that bloomin’ truck!! The weight is a whole lot heavier than I originally thought – but more than that I just can’t face the thought of going into yet another challenge already injured. I need time off to re-group and re-build my knees and correct my IT-band problem and get them back to injury-free mode.  I’m already planning my re-construction training (lol) for after the 21st October and that’s not a good thing to be doing. The challenge isn’t coming first. Uh-Oh.

So the weight I can deal with. Surprisingly, although the pack is seriously heavier than I’d anticipated, my back is recovering quickly afterwards without residual effect and that’s a big positive because that was my biggest worry.  My IT-band problem, though, is frustrating, demoralising, painful and debilitating. And it’ll be the main cause of my slow finish on the 21st because I can’t run! How can I train to run any distance with the Bergen when I can’t run more than 100 metres without my ITB kicking up a racket? Grrrr. Double grrrr.

So the reassessment says that it’s not the result that matters but what I do to get there. I’ve got a training plan. I planned it as though I was 100% fit and I’m still going to follow it. It’s just going to take longer. I thought the 8 miles the other day was going to take me forever. I looked at my watch afterwards. I was right. It did. 10 miles is going to take longer, and the added challenge on race day of doing it with God knows what obstacles? Well, all I can say is that I’ll know I’ve done my best. Now, negative thoughts be gone!


Today’s training was, I thought, going to be easy on my knees. A simple 5k in my military boots – just to get used to running in them. No extra weight. I might as well have had the weight. My ITB is unforgiving this time round. Just gotta suck it up. I can do that for 10 miles, can’t I? Run 100m, walk 100 … something like that? Still means I can maybe run at least 50% of the course – enough to avoid being swept up by the truck? We’ll see.


No boots, no Bergen. Just a run – 10 miles. Couldn’t wait. Unfortunately, it didn’t go as planned. After 4 miles I was walking and by the end I couldn’t actually ‘run’ more than 3 steps without pain kicking in. I did say I’d keep to the plan even if I had to walk it, though, so I did. Mucho frustrating-oh!


Supposed to be doing intervals today. That’s a joke. Instead of being gut-busting fast/slow intervals they ended up being jog/walk ones. This is no fun. Need another assessment, I think. Should I pull out of this one, take time off and start rebuilding, ready for next year?? What should I do?

Sunday p.m.

Saw the physio today – what a breath of fresh air that was. I went in ready for battle, awaiting all the usual ‘well, if you insist on running stupid distances blah blah blah …’ Instead, I got ‘I’m a great fan of ultra-running’ and a ‘pain does not necessarily mean damage’!! I thought I’d been transported to an alternative universe. I’d been expecting advice to rest, ice, etc. Instead I got … ‘Take a day or two off, then run and see how you do!’ He also told me to stop trying to correct my form – that I should let my body decide how it wants to run!

I’m now scared to go running because I’m expecting a miracle which won’t of course be there!!  Mr Physio did think military boots and 35lbs was a little on the extreme (‘cause 100k isn’t??? haha) but suggested I continue training, if conservatively, and resist pulling out until I next see him.





Paras 10 training begins

And so it begins … training for the Para’s 10 Challenge on 21 October. Who’s stupid idea was it to do this, I ask you (although that wasn’t a question, really)! Yes, I admit the prospect of training for a ten-mile race was rather appealing – a bit of a break from distance running which my head adores but my body not so much. And the prospect of meeting up with some fellow runners from the London to Brighton challenge also sounded like fun. But the button was right there in front of me on the entry form to enter the standard race. It was right there! It really was! So why couldn’t I press it and go and have some fun running a 10-mile course like most other runners who enjoy 10 mile races? I couldn’t, could I? Nope! I had to ignore that button and move my hand slightly to the right and press on the adjacent button – the one that said P Company Entries and hey ho, with one little click I’ve signed myself up to run the 10 miles in military boots and carrying 35lbs/16kg on my back! What an idiot!

And so training begins. Well, it’s different, I can tell you that. Interesting, too. I sought out some expertise before buying any boots (thank you, Bob!) and finally became the proud owner of a pair of Magnums which I can neither eat on a sunny day nor point at anyone and say ‘Make my day!’ Either of those would be preferable, but no, these ones go on my feet. Is there a foot-size restriction in the army? Jeez, you should try finding a size 5 in any of these boots. Almost impossible. They still feel big (to be honest, I think they stuck a size 5 label on size 6 boots just to keep me happy lol) but we’re starting to come to terms with each other. I’ve found a way to stop my feet moving around in them, I’ve sucked it up and dealt with the rubbing and skin off around the back of my heels and we are beginning to get on. I’ve definitely cracked the code for walking/running in them, too. For me, at least, it’s 100% psychological. On my first tentative couple of walks I was aware of the weight and relative discomfort all the time. Then it occurred to me that I was spending too much time thinking about it. I decided to try imagining I was simply wearing my trainers. Absolute bloody magic! No problem at all after that. The ‘walking-in-the-boots’ challenge box is well and truly ticked.

The bergen, however, is a whole other story. Bring on the challenge!! Massive thank you (again) to Bob – for going to the trouble of conjuring up a bergen AND camos for me. The training plan supplied by the Paras (no doubt for us beginners to this lark) suggests a combination of building up running in boots with what I call ‘weighted’ runs in trainers – in other words, either doing sessions with boots on or sessions with the bergen – but not both at once. It also suggests building up from 15 lbs in the bergen to 30 lbs (no sessions with 35 lbs – I wonder why??). Anyway, I’ve sorted my own training plan now – based on the suggested training ideas and knowledge of my own capabilities. Now I’m even more worried about that weight!! I’ve done a 5 km trot with 20lbs in a ‘normal’ rucksack – and an 8-mile walk. 20lbs is not too bad. Today, however, it was my first outing with the bergen – a very different feel altogether. I was also determined to take the worry away about the weight by doing 10k with the full 35 lbs – just to know that it was possible. At least 10k would give me a feel for what it was going to be like. Well, what can I say? I did it! Am I any less worried? Erm …. No! Jesus, that’s HEAVY!! Compared to my 20lb rucksack, the Bergen is also HUGE – much harder to carry on my ‘relatively’ small frame. Packing it is going to be key. Yesterday, I played around with a 10kg sandbag in it – thinking that’d be a good start, but there’s no way to stabilise it and it also means the weight is going from top to bottom, whereas I’d rather have more weight higher up and away from my lower back. I ditched the sandbag. For my 10k walk this morning I settled on a sleeping bag at the bottom with 2 x 6kg dumbells cushioned between sleeping bag ‘layers’. I didn’t have time to weigh it but I figure that it was close enough to 16 kgs with the bergen and the sleeping bag – and by the time the bergen was truly SATURATED with rain I’m sure it weighed more!! This still needs work. The sleeping bag’s too soft and over time the weights found their way further and further down my back.

The bergen weighting game continues …
The problems:
– what to put at the bottom to keep the heavier weights closer to the top;
– What to use as weights – any alternative to dumbells?

What I’ve learned today

1. It’s f***ing heavy
2. The thought of running with it is a lot worse than the actual act! It’s manageable (just).
3. It’s f***ing heavy
4. My glutes are definitely NOT doing the work they should be. Action required.

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