I’ve recently been on a training camp to the French Alps and like most things in my life its not been straight forward and simple!
My past life hangs over my head like a dark cloud sometimes and every now and then it decides to rain on me too remind me it’s there – just incase I forget.
Even the simple things that people take for granted like going abroad on a holiday or in this case a training camp aren’t that easy for me.
As a man sentenced to life imprisonment for armed robbery it means I’m on a life license forever. This means the day I was released from prison I signed my life over to the state. Until the day that I die.
So EVERYTHING I do I need to ask permission from my probation officer. Things such as moving house or in this case travelling outside the UK.
Last year I was offered to go and train with a man I greatly respect as an athlete – Hywell Davis. He was arranging a training camp in the French Alps with some other very talented runners and cyclists who were top athletes in their own right.
The reason he asked me to go was because we have several things in common – he himself has broken many world rowing records and knew about me taking up Ironman. He thought it would be good for my training and also potentially good for the group. This type of camaraderie is a great example of the supportive mentality of the Ironman family.
So I pay the money and book the flights in the faint hope they would let me travel by the time thecamp came around. It was a risk I had to take as this camp was going to be a real test of my current training and the cash had to be paid well in advance….
Last year, whilst still rowing, I was meant to be going on a high performance training camp to Milan to be selected for a boat to race at Royal Henley. I received many and several character references from ex international rowing coaches and other profession people stating that this was a genuine trip with other athletes and vouching for my character- but at the last moment the probation service said NO!! So I wasn’t getting my hopes up too much but still had a burning fire inside me and really wanted this to happen…
Then 3 weeks I got the call. It was a YES! It had been approved because over the past year and a half I’ve made so much progress with my life and built up trust with the probation service. This was a big thing. A very big thing. Essentially they were saying that I could travel outside the UK and they didn’t think I was to go AWOL and run off into the sun. Now bearing in mind there have been some news in the media recently about other inmates escaping and going missing and one of these was my co defendant at the time- this was a massive decision for them – and I will always be grateful that they showed faith in me.
So off I go too to the French Alps for the first time on a plane since I got arrested a decade ago.
It was an incredible feeling being at the boarding gate on that Saturday morning with just the feeling of being totally free again – it was priceless.
The camp was what can only be described as amazing. These guys were great athletes. A few all in the 2h30m for a marathon and Hywell Davis has won double Ironman and dominates in races over ironman distance – hes up there with the pro guys.
The whole camp was set up like a race – who can get too the top of a 2000m climb the fastest? That’s how I like to train J And I even surprised myself as for someone who has only been riding a bike for 7 months I was up there dropping guys!
As a self coached athlete, who never really trains with others, it’s sometimes hard to note real progression. Okay I sit on a Wattbike for 3 hours a day and see my wattage has gone up and my heart rate down BUT when you’re actually side by side with someone smashing the shit out of yourself and your pulling away that’s when you know you’ve improved.
I made sure everyday counted out there in the Alps. We did 20,000m plus of climbing on the bike on some of the hardest stages in the Tour de France. And all in 5 days! I made sure I gave everything to get those training adaptions at altitude.
So with only 2 weeks now until my first race – Ironman Wimbellball 70.3 – I can’t wait too see the gains I’ve made over the past 8 months and how the camp out in the French alps has pushed me on.
I’m not tapering for Wimbelball at all as it’s not important too me. The target is Ironman UK in July but I will still race it as hard I can on the day and see how all the cards fall.
Thanks for reading