Dan Fance

From reading previous blog ramblings of mine, you’ll probably see a few references to me running with a weighted military backpack (Bergen) and why I do it. Not sure if there’s a better reason to go back through my posts and feast your eyes. I’ve probably mentioned that it’s largely training for an organised event called the Fan Dance, which is a civilian version of one of the key test marches for the UK Special Forces.

It is called the Fan Dance because it is held, like the real thing, in the Brecon Beacons in South Wales, and involves summiting the mountain Pen Y Fan twice, which is the highest peak in the south of England and Wales. Typically, the course is 15 miles (24km) and is out and back (along the same route each way, not circular). Recruits are given 4 hours in which to complete the march and pass it. It is probably the toughest thing I’ve ever done. I’m not keen on the muddy obstacle courses. They’re fairly boring and most allow you to skip some of the obstacles if you can’t do them, usually with a penalty. There is no choice with this march. You either complete it – or withdraw. No halfway house.

I have completed this event twice, in 2014 and 2016. The closest I have got to 4 hours is about 4 hours 15 minutes. Close but no vape. I’ve said on numerous occasions that I’d keep doing it until one of two things happened: One, I pass; two, I die. I don’t intend on trying number two anytime soon so let’s try number one shall we?

Having trouble sleeping the other night, I took the plunge and entered the event. I did quite a lot of training before Christmas, but haven’t done a hell of a lot since, so the effort level needs to be ramped right up. Possibly until it’s flipping vertical. I always forget, I was younger when I did it last and it’s harder to train these days. I train for so many different events I think I probably spread myself a little too thin across the disciplines.

Yesterday morning, instead of doing my customary Tuesday hell-for-leather 10k blast, I put my boots on, grabbed my Bergen and went out and did some hill repeats. It’s a start. I think getting inspired is a huge push to help you to get motivated for anything, so this will be no different. I’ll be hoping to get that click where it all drops into place and becomes easier. I also need to sleep better. It’s dangerous for entering races I’m not quite ready for.

Je ne suis pas Jenson Button

It’s been a hectic couple of weeks, hence missing last week’s blog. As mentioned at the end of my last post, I spent the weekend before last in France. Being as the subject of this blog is about getting outdoors, it won’t surprise anyone that I explored the local vicinity on foot as much as possible, mainly in the medium of running.

Having a keen eye for anything pain inducing, I spotted there was a hill on the edge of the city, not far from the Air BnB. There was a fort on top so it had to be quite high. It wasn’t as high as the mountainous foothills behind it, but they were out of range really. I mean, I go on holiday and run to relax, not run hilly half marathons, that would be insane (tuts, rolls eyes).

On day one, off I went up the winding coast road, getting lost more than once. On one of these occasions, I found myself on the main road from Nice to Monaco. Stopping to look at the map, my navigation was disturbed by a rabble of French tourists, enthusiastically making their way across the road towards me looking both incredibly pleased and excited. My first thought was, “Crikey, don’t ask me for directions because firstly, I’m lost, and secondly, my grip on the French language is so loose I sound like I’m doing a bad impression of Officer Crabtree from Allo Allo.” Anyway, through the alien words that they said, I heard the phrase, “C’est Jenson Button!”. For years, my sister and countless others have remarked on a slight resemblance to the former Formula 1 champion, so as soon as they said it I thought, “Oh no, not this again”. Basic year 9 French left me only with the phrase, “Je suis Anglais”, which of course is probably exactly what he would say. Now I did something I’m not particularly proud of. I went along with it. I posed for photos, and stopped short of signing autographs. I mean, that would just be fraudulent and upset innocent people. I managed to gesture towards my watch, and pointed to the summit of the hill, and promptly legged it, chuckling to myself.

Despite the language problem, I found Nice to be very warm, vibrant, friendly and safe, despite its terror problems in recent years. I’ve now added the Nice marathon to my bucket list, as well as the surrounding mountains, and have even started learning French again for the first time since 1996. Particularly the phrase, “I am NOT Jenson Button”.

How NOT to prep

What a difference a year makes. On Sunday I had my first half marathon of the year. Twelve months ago, it was postponed for a month because of the Beast From the East cold weather. Sunday was just wet. The Pest From the West.

The run itself was a bit of a disaster for me really. There were many factors that contributed. The main one was my lack of training at the pace needed over that distance. I’ve definitely put the miles in, but for longer distances, or quick 5ks or hilly runs with my Bergen. But none geared up for a quick half marathon. Then, on Saturday, I met up with a friend and we sat over multiple coffees and had a catch up. Not being a coffee drinker, I’d say I was wired for a good few hours afterwards and couldn’t wind down enough to sleep, eventually getting just two hours.

So as you can probably guess, the wheels came off. I did ok for the first 5 miles, but started going backwards at 6. A couple of energy gels meant I rallied at 10 miles and put in a quick last bit to save the day slightly. My finish line photo does not reflect the discomfort I was in, more the relief at finally finishing without needing the St John’s Ambulance.

My friends all did great, which was good. They all deserved their quick times. Hopefully next year I’ll get back on the half marathon training properly. It’s my favourite distance.

It capped off a strange weekend. Not necessarily a good strange either. I suppose it’s a tectonic plate shift of life sometimes that needs to happen, like growing pains.

The next blog will probably be about all things French, as I’m jetting out there tomorrow for a few days of international blue in Nice. The Instagram page will be getting a pounding so I apologise in advance! Vive la Outdoor Living Room!