I say Chiltern, you say Warrior!

I like running and I like running events but why do some running events try to electrocute, drown or otherwise damage their contestants? The rise in popularity of tough-mudder style obstacle events is a visible trend in the running calendar so I couldn’t resist a trip to leafy Chesham last week to film my local Chiltern Warrior.

As obstacle events go Chiltern Warrior, now in its second year, is not hardcore but no less enjoyed by its 300 participants. It’s a family day out more than an SAS assault course.  Organised by the gentle charity that is The Chiltern Open Air Museum this 5k woodland event (two laps for the 10k) throws runners under and over cargo nets, up mud walls and through iron-age ditches.
Iron-age? yes, the museum is a heritage site where historical buildings are re-constructed and protected. Not many running routes take you past an iron-age settlement, a mission church, a working blacksmiths as well as Elton John’s studio (actually this is still a pile of bricks but hopefully not for long).
Good weather is not a pre-requisite for obstacle events but the sun glinted through the clouds to light up an excellently organised day out.

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There is no doubt about it, holidays are essential.

I’m not talking about a few days off to paint the dining room or put those shelves up I’m talking about an all-out, off-grid, bank-busting, different hemisphere, immersive experience. That’s a holiday.

So I consider myself more than a little lucky to have just enjoyed 10 days in Mexico in The Grand Velas Resort on the Mayan Riviera.

These massive resorts are not everyone’s cup of tea but they are the very definition of luxury.  And due to the sheer scale of the place it’s possible to lose yourself in a spa, a jungle pool, in one of the many bars or anywhere along the vast expanse of impossibly silken silver sands that line the equally impossible azure bath that is the caribbean.

Mayan civilisation is not on the European history syllabus and more’s the pity.  The real Mexicans (Mayans Incas, Aztecs etc) were busy making star charts, writing books and working out the meaning of life while most other civilisations (except perhaps the Egyptians and maybe some Romans) where bashing each other with rough-hewn flints.  They even had their own football league although they couldn’t call it that as you could only strike the ball with your hips.

The civilisation was astonishingly advanced but it fell apart mainly due to their reckless abuse of natural resources and an obsession with human sacrifice which must have been unpopular.

And most unfortunately, their manuscripts which recorded more than three millennia of learnings was burned over the course of five days by the invading Spaniards under Cortez.  These bold invaders later felt a bit bad about this as they mistook the many icons of skulls, snakes and crosses as heretical having failed to work out that the Mayans had never heard of the Christian religion and it’s own crosses symbolised something quite different.

Yes, I took the running shoes although the beach sand was so soft it was like wearing fur-lined Kayanos. I jogged the 2-mile length of the Resort main drive too under the watchful eye of my own personal security guardian on a quad bike.

Tequila is the Mexican drink of choice and Don Julio is the Tequila of choice. This stuff is fierce; it doesn’t so much give you a hangover, it gives you a half-life.

Evidence of the history and architecture of the place is everywhere but most, like Tulum which we visited for a day, are heavily trampled by tourists.  So when you can find them, it’s the natural features of Mexico that made the biggest impact on me.  I dived in the fresh and clear waters of the Grand Cenote (Big Cave) and snorkelled over the Coral Reef off Cancun – the second largest of its kind next to the Great Barrier Reef. I made the above little film from clips off my Go Pro. I hope you like it.

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Olympic rowing heroes on film

I’ve been busting to tell you but I had to keep it under wraps.

In January, I signed an agreement with the GB Rowing Team to film them as they made their way towards The Rio 2016 Olympic Games. As video contracts go it was a peach and in good rowing style I was thrown in at the deep end.  You can see how I got on here.

7.15 am on a blustery February morning amid some of the worst storms the country has seen is not a pretty time to be awake let alone sitting in what I can only describe as a fibreglass splinter, cracking out a two-hour training session on a freezing cold lake.  But that’s what rowers do.  Every day.  With only one day’s break every 6 weeks.  For years at a time.  That, brother, is dedication.  That is what wins Olympic medals.

And win they did.  Nine medals in all at London 2012 and that was a record.

If rowers don’t mind, I’d like to offer them a compliment. In the making of this short film I met some pretty hardcore champs both of the current millennium and the last. Not at any time was I made to feel unwelcome as I poked my camera at them during their bizarre stretching routines nor at any time did one ounce of ego show itself among folks who could quite well justify a little self-praise. Instead I met a bunch of unspeakably healthy individuals dedicated beyond belief to becoming the fittest and doing the very best their bodies and minds would allow them to do.

While superhuman athletic performance and some lottery funding is part of it I think it’s this personal quality that truly makes Olympians.

Sorry its been a while since my last blog.  I’ve been kinda busy.  Hopefully more to come through the summer including more amazing rowing footage and news.

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Janathon the whatth? Where’s he been?

Look, I know, I’ve let the side down.
What’s the point of doing Janathon if you can’t get your lazy erris out of bed to run or exercise. I am that person. Mr no-mojo, non-running bloke, too busy eating and avoiding booze to do his regular running slot.
It started badly and got worse and lately i’ve been almost two weeks without a run and so here I am prostrate before you more adhesive Janothanites to plea for forgiveness.
I did run this week – a four-miler in a mix of sun and rain topping me out at about 24 miles for the month to date . Yeah, yeah, poor; I know, yadda yadda.
yauatchaIn fact I’ve not been ill or injured, I’ve not even been working that hard although I can lay claim to a few other, er, domestic stresses. I did however collect my Xmas present lunch at Yauatcha this week with Mrs G and very yum it was too.
Opened in 2004 and instantly awarded a Miche star it’s definitely a treat for the tastebuds. It’s “modern authentic dim sum” and a good variety of more familiar oriental dishes served with a lot more style and creative culinary flair than you’ll find at your average Peking Palace and priced accordingly.
Given their DimSum expertise the best advice I can give is don’t run, graze on Dim Sum for as long as you can afford. Don’t be distracted by the delicately encrusted duck course or the aromatic and sweetly peppered flaky lamb in black peppercorn sauce. Good though they are, they pale in comparison to the angelic Rice paper prawn and mango roll and the downright cerebral Spicy pork Szechuan wonton which will just blow you away. Even the cucumber nibbles are to die for dipped in a house chili sauce that was crafted by denizens of the underworld so beguiling was it. We over-ordered mains and so skipped pud which would have been one more delight judging by those we saw on the cold display.
Price £120 incl for two with one bottle of wine. Value for money? I guess so for top table and the service is absolutely fine.
Any negatives? I don’t like the chairs; they’re too low and the tables are too small. I felt like I was at Kindy and needed a bib and the atmosphere is more cafe than fine dining if I’m honest.
Look, I do like running but I also really like Hakkasan and I just loved Yauatcha. They’re both fantastic an there’s barely a noodle between them.

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Janathon the 6th

I know, I missed one. So what; I’m a rebel.  But I did run today and I did run yesterday so my Janthoning tally is now 20 miles. Six miles along my beloved Chess River Valley was spectacular today just as the 2 miles on the treadmill yesterday was not.

Still alcohol free, I feel like some kind of demented can of running Swan Light.


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Janathon the 4th

DCIM101GOPROThere you go – my sins are laid bare.  It’s now the 7th of Jan and I’m still only on Janathon the 4th.  Four outings and two of those were walks.  Tally: about 12m.  Yesterday’s 6m run along the Chess River Valley was quite the wettest and stickiest I’ve been on for ages.  Inov8 Roclites (319s for the running geeks who were wondering which model) were and will continue to be an essential kit component for the Chilterns in any season but particularly so after weeks of wet and Xmas walkers and mountain bikers have thrashed the paths mercilessly.

Fitness levels are good though, what with a massive down-scaling of alcohol consumption. My liver is on sabbatical.

I’ve booked up Endure24 again (where I was *official videographer* last year, if you please!) this time hoping to bring my unfeasibly fit son and re-engage with the hatters that came last year and prior to that the Thunder Runs.  And a walk of the course at Chiltern Warrior where i’ll be filming in March also looks like it will be fun.

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Janathon the 1st

Janathon is upon us yet again the creative brainchild of JogBlog.  Run/blog/tweet every day of the month.  And in keeping with tradition it’s the second of Jan and I’ve only done one outing.  About 5k in bright sunshine in mid-Cotswolds.  Lovely.

My take on Janathon is that it’s a mythical month that only has as many days in it as those that I actually manage to get my rear into gear and take exercise and blog/tweet about it.  So that makes today Janathon the 1st.

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