We have been back from our holiday for a while now. We had a really nice time, Grayson got to do all his favourite activities. Including riding a steam train, he loves trains. It was nice to get away as an extended family and Grayson really enjoyed spending a lot of time with his cousins. They all played together non stop.
Ascot also loved his time away. His puppy walker really enjoyed having him back for a while and Ascot loved playing with the guide dog puppy in training.
The roughest thing about being away was the fact we all became ill. Sian, my mum and I all came back with a terrible chest infection. I didn’t get out of bed for days, it was the illest I have ever been. While we are all now recovering I unfortunately lost a large amount of vision while I was ill.
Being away from home you don’t really notice that you may be losing vision. You are in unfamiliar surroundings so put down an increase into bumping into things or struggling with vein in a new location. Then with my illness on returning home I was bed bound, so wasn’t really getting up to much to notice my vision loss.
It wasn’t until I got out of bed and started getting back to my normal daily life that I noticed just how much vision I had lost. I didn’t have much vision anyway but this recent loss of vision is the largest I have suffered. It seems so sudden, 2 weeks ago I could see outlines of things that I no longer can. It is making life a little harder and making university even more so.
I had a plan of what I needed to get done for exam time that is now slipping away from me. I have to adapt to this most recent loss and that is eating up my revision time. So yet again it looks like I may have to move some exams about stand a chance of receiving a decent grade.
I was really hoping m vision would of held out for a little longer. We are expecting another child later this year and this new marked sight loss will make things even more difficult.
I am quickly trying to adapt and adjust to get back into the swing of things though. Just going to take a month or so to get everything working smoothly again.
Sian, Grayson and myself are off on our first family holiday. We have been away for a couple of days before, but that was just to support me on runs. This is the first time we are going away with the sole intention of it being a holiday.
Grayson is particularly excited as we have bought him a special Thomas travel bed. He loves it; just not as a bed. It’s a slide, a ramp, a bouncy thing and a weeping. Basically anything but a bed. So the chances of him settling down are minimal.
You may have noticed I didn’t mention Ascot (my guide dog) going away with us. Well that is because he has gone on a very special dog holiday. I didn’t want to take him away with us as we are doing so many activities that aren’t dog friendly he would of spent a lot of the time in kennels. So I decided to arrange his own holiday.
I contacted the people who originally had Ascot as a puppy. They were delighted at the thought of having him back for a week. So we dropped him off today and for 2 hours he played non stop with their new guide dog puppy. He is going to love it, he rarely gets the chance to play with other dogs. There is also another dog and cat to play with, so he really will have a lot of animal fun.
The puppy walkers seemed so happy to have Ascot back for a while too. They are planning to take him to visit all the people that new him as a puppy to show them he is now a fully qualified guide dog. He is going to get so many strokes and being playing so much I don’t think he will want to come back!
With my plan to compete in The Grimreaper in early August I have just officially begun a training cycle. I have been working on a little base mileage the past few weeks, peaking at the 15 mile mark on long runs. But now the long trawl of improving every week begins!
Historically I have always run splits. When I first started running I went straight to the 100 mile distance. I had never even run a 5k before. So in order to increase my mileage consistently and rapidly I decided to run splits. I would run for 25 mins and walk for 5; repeating this until I had achieved my distance. This also had the added benefit of allowing me to time my food intake. So every 25 minutes I would aim to consume something, it differed for each split but I would always eat something.
The downside of this was the fact I was terrible at anything below ultra distance. I could rack up the miles but I couldn’t achieve shorter runs at speed. As a result my half marathon and marathon times were terrible. For this training cycle I have decided to do away with splits and just run.
This is in an effort to improve my shorter distance and manage my time a little better. It has also resulted in my average pace increasing by 1mph. Which is quite a chunk at the ultra distance.
I am hoping I can maintain the lack of splits as my cycle continues. It will certainly improve my times come race day. I will however switch back to splits if training becomes too difficult. After all splits serve a great purpose and is still something I intend on using for 50+ mile races. Its just nice to get those brief recovery periods to allow you to throw down a GU!
A friend sent me a tweet the other day to a video of Dean Karnazes (featured below). It was a nice reminder of why I decided to go down the path of the ultra distance.
Years ago I was still able to read books. Even though I could read books I rarely did. It would usually be through necessity, so either a manual for work or a Time Out guide for somewhere I was planning to visit. It never really occurred to me it might be an idea to read a lot of books before I was unable to.
So when I did read a book it really stuck in my mind. The only books I can remember reading are near to the entire work of Hunter S Thompson and one book by Dean Karnazes. The Thompson books could certainly explain why I drank so much back in the day! The Karnaze’s Ultramarathon Man really stuck in my mind.
I read it at a time when my vision was beginning to severely deteriorate. I hadn’t realised it at the time but it would become the last book I was able to read. Due to the fact it was the last book I ever read it held a special place in my heart and mind and created something. Something that would re surface years later.
When I had become so bored with waiting for college to start; I had began to run. Once I had mastered the art of running alone I felt I needed a challenge. I had done something I didn’t feel was possible a few months ago so what do I do now?
I remembered Karnaze’s book and thought: If he could do it, why can’t i?
With recent rumours of an Apple iWatch its been a hot topic amongst my friends. Woill Apple release a watch? I am not convinced. It just seems a little far from Apple’s path to me, I also can’t see Ive designing a watch.
Now I would love to be proved wrong and Apple release a watch with a beautiful face. Using the swiss railway face that they licensed would be a great start. The number of features a watch could introduce could be interesting too. Controlling your phone from a wrist device is a nice idea, which is one I ordered the Pebble. More on that later.
All the talk of an Apple iWatch reignited my love for watches. Before I lost my vision I collected watches. I particularly liked watches with unique faces with a penchant for unique ways to tell the time. Hence my collection had a lot of Tokyo Flash watches. I also collected a little higher end with a few designer watches a classic gold faces watch and the prize of my collection my Breitling Cosmonaut.
I love the Breitling for 2 reasons. As a child I dreamt of being a pilot and Breitling has a strong connection to flight. The Cosmonaut also has a 24 hour face. Quite unique for a non digital watch! It is something that I treasure and something I will pass down to Grayson.
Despite losing my vision though I still love watches. I still yearn for a Hublot Big Bang with a black ceramic dial. It is certainly far out of my price range and I wouldn’t really be able to read the time from it. But that doesn’t stop the fact I would love to own the Hublot. I just love watches that much, I don’t care if I can’t see the face anymore I can remember what it looks like!
Now I have lost my vision my choice for a functional watch is dismal. Cheap plastic watches with even worse bands are all that is really available. No space age metals or ceramic for me anymore. Just cheap plastic.
So the Pebble, why did I buy the Pebble? For one thing, controlling RunKeeper. I am sure once I finally have one and apps are released I will find more uses for it.
But for now my wrist is bare. The cheap plastic watches kept breaking. Hopefully soon it will be replace by the Pebble and one day the Hublot. I just need to figure out how I can afford one….
A couple of weeks ago I was invited to give a talk at a school a few miles away from where I live. It was healthy living week and they had asked if I could give a talk on running and nutrition.
Now if you have been following along, my original running nutrition was diabolical. With little money for sports nutrition and the limited knowledge of sugar powers you! I ate rubbish. I would power runs on chocolate bars, Mr Kipling and anything else that was cheap and high in sugar.
The interesting point was when i transitioned from this terrible sugar intake to sports nutrition and eventually something lower in sugar. My initial foray into sports nutrition saw the obligatory gels (which I still use) to my transition into “normal food”. Just eating fruit, nuts and sandwiches.
So I had a little I could detail on nutrition. I began the talk by giving a brief introduction to what ultra running is, which was then followed by my ASICS commercial. Viewing the commercial was the first time these hundreds of students would know I couldn’t see.
My speech then revolved around the challenges of running blind with a little bit on the nutrition. People are always keen to hear how I do it blind and how far I can run.
As I continue to give public talks I find myself feeling more at hom and being able to give a truly natural delivery. It seems practice really does make perfect. Or it may just be the fact; unable to see the audience I dont really get nervous!
The school have asked me to come back this time tailoring my talk to be “inspirational”. So this will have to include the initial obligatory slide of my stance on inspiration. It is a label I will never assign myself as being inspired by someone or something is up to the individual. Perhaps at some point I can find a label I feel comfortable with.
As a side note if anyone would like me to give a talk at a school/business let me know. Would love to gain more experience in this area.
Despite losing my vision I still enjoy watching television. My viewing habits haven’t changed too much I still enjoy watching everything from cartoons, documentaries and dramas. It is however a little easier to follow shows that are story driven and rely less on visuals. The reliance on visuals is why I find a lot of modern day films difficult to follow.
ONe of the most annoying things however those is navigating through the channels on television. While Audio Description was introduced to describe the actual shows there hasn’t been a great improvement in navigating channels. There are one or two screen reading free view boxes. But it isn’t something I have really invested in to date. The reason being my Apple TV.
The Apple TV supports VoiceOver just like the rest of the Apple line. The great thing about this is it reads menus and the full description of the media. This has made selecting shows an absolute breeze for me. Now when my son asks me to put on “choo-choo’s” I dont have to tell him to wait for mummy. I can just flick the Apple TV on and navigate through the menus to find Thomas, or Chuggington or Dinosaur Train any of the shows he loves with trains in them.
This is made possible thanks to a couple of subscription services on the Apple TV: Netflix and Hulu Plus. Netflix is an absolute breeze to setup, turn on your Apple TV enable VoiceOver and simply start Netflix. The Netflix account is attached to your Apple ID so it takes care of the subscription for you. Hulu Plus is much the same, you just subscribe through the Apple TV.
You can even access your own media located in your iTunes media. This is another great feature. All those DVD’s you own that you have no idea which one to put in. Put them all into your iTunes media centre and navigate through your collection with VoiceOver.
VoiceOver really has changed the way I am able to access media. I am no longer reliant on asking my wife which channel a particular show is currently on, or which DVD a particular film is. I can simply flick on the Apple TV and navigate through all my media myself. It isn’t restricted to video either, I often use it to stream audio from my phone as an AirPlay stereo, or even access music services directly on the Apple TV. It is truly a great device and for under a £100 an incredibly cheap piece of accessible hardware.
Inspiration is a label that has often been applied to my running exploits. I have always struggled a little with this and have never self assigned the label. Being inspired by someone is so personal anyone who sells themselves as inspiring is just a little to arrogant for my taste. So I have often distanced myself from the labels “inspirational” and “motivational”.
When I started out running I certainly didn’t think about inspiring others. I just set out to try and achieve something for myself. To see where I could push myself too. Running alone was initially more by necessity than the challenge. I hadn’t considered how difficult it would be at first, I just thought I didn’t really have an option if I wanted to run. So I went out and learnt to do it.
Pushing how far I could go came when I decided to see if I could take what I had done and sustain it for long training sessions. It turned out I could, I really enjoyed those early days of training finding out what was possible.
By some wondrous stroke of luck my story has been featured in the media. As well as the commercial I posted the other day I did quite a few interviews for print. Then today I got a wonderful tweet. It mentioned someone had written a letter to the editor of OUtdoor Fitness and I was mentioned.
On another happy note, my son, who is $I has just joined an athletics club after being inspired by Simon Wheatcroft, the blind runner and real-life hero in the same issue, thanks for inspiring and fixing. Nichola Sperrlng, Bristol
Hearing that I had inspired a young boy with a sight impairment to take up running really touched me. I am happy I have inspired someone with a sight impairment to take up running. I hope one day I can run with him and his mother. If you are reading this get in touch!
With the changes in my running schedule due to the ebb and flow of my life I had planned on a few changes to my 2013 race schedule. Due to the cancellation of the 2012 NYC marathon I had intended to defer to 2013. This was a little up in the air as this year is set to be a busy one. With a new child on the way I didn’t think it too wise to head to NYC shortly after leaving my wife with a new born and Grayson!
So all the races I had intended running in 2013 are now off. I have been wondering exactly what races I should enter this year. I have reached out to a few friends to try and tag along to a few events. Then today I received a text message from an old running friend. I rarely get to see this person but whenever we meet up its to do something special, be it attempting a 100 mile run, filming a TV commercial (see below), running in ultras and even winning awards.
We are not sure what we will be competing in yet, but I am sure we will make it special whatever we decide to do!
If anyone out there is running any events in the UK this year and would like some company, shoot me a message on twitter. Always looking for new people to run with! be it 5k or 50k and anything in between!
As this blog has been a testament too 2012 was a year of great experiences as well as a number of difficulties.
Due to these mounting issues I took the difficult decision to scale down my 2013 runs. I still intend to compete throughout 2013 just not to the level I had planned for during 2012. It will give me a great opportunity to add a little more balance to my life and not spend as much time training for the first time in a couple of years.
With the reduced training I thought it might be a great chance to try a few new things and do a little cross training. In order to kickstart this I have entered a little weight loss competition with 2 friends. My competing weight usually hovers around 175lbs, with my walking around weight at 179lbs. Thanks to a little excess at christmas I am a little above those weights. So a quick 4 week shred is in order to bring it inline!
After the weight loss I will be steadily increasing the miles to be race ready for all summer/autumn/winter.
2013 will also be the year my second child will be born, it is a little ways off yet with a predicted summer birthday, but definitely something to look forward to!
I have begun to focus my psychology reading into a few main areas too. After all perhaps its time to think what I will be doing after university! I still love technology, I always will. So I have a keen interest in computational models, influence and a few business/financial areas. I think these will all tie together quite well and place me in a great position after I leave university.