Thursday, 16 May 2013

Paris Sera Toujours Paris

Welcome back to the Arc to Arch / fivemarathons blog. This latest thrilling instalment comes only three weeks before we head to Paris to start our Arc to Arch cycling adventure. I'm looking forward to being back in the City of Light. The last time I was there, in January, I came back engaged to be married. This time, given that I'm rooming with Chopper Chaplin, I'm hoping that there's no repeat.

Proudly wearing my Macmillan jersey in the starting pen, before the Philadelphia Marathon (November 2012)

My training continues to progress reasonably well and the miles are rolling by. Over the bank holiday, I put in about 85 miles on a return trip from Menstrie to St Andrews. Belatedly, I’m beginning to realise the importance of checking, before you set out: a) the gradient profile; and b) the prevailing wind. Otherwise, you’ll rattle off the out lap in record time, only to realise you’ve been going downhill with the wind at your back. The 3 hour 10 return leg was in stark contrast to the two hour out lap.

Steffan making it look easy

Last week, I spent the day volunteering at Grove House Hospice (see in Hertfordshire. Grove House has been supporting people affected by cancer and other life-limiting illnesses in St Albans since the early 1980s. It provided the first Hospice Care Team for St Albans, with the aim of providing specialist Macmillan Nurses for the area. Regular readers will know that Macmillan is a cause close to my heart and is, with the Christie, one of fivemarathons’ supported charities. Not that I needed any reminder, Macmillan's vital work was brought home to me with the care Jayne’s Mum received during her recent battle against cancer.

My Olympic torch comes home. The nurses looking after Jay's Mum pose with the torch (Macmillan was the reason I was nominated to carry the flame).

My particular skillset is obviously best suited to less cerebral pursuits and I spent the morning cracking rocks as I dug the foundations for, and concreted, a platform for a garden bench within Grove House’s superb gardens. Very much against the odds, and in true Ground Force style, we managed to complete the platform, lay the paving flags, and have the bench installed in time for afternoon tea and medals. The photo of the spirit level, below, reflects our incredulity that the bench was relatively straight.

Feeling suitably smug with ourselves at Grove House

Tommy Walsh would be proud

Volunteering at Grove House was every bit as fulfilling as, and much less gruelling than, the days I’ve pulled on my Macmillan jersey to run one of the marathons. You get a real insight into the great work that the hospice, and Macmillan, are doing to help our loved ones when they need it the most. Speaking of jerseys, this week, we’ve finalised the shirt sponsors for our Arc to Arch cycling tops. Many, many thanks to our corporate sponsors, whose logos we’ll be proudly sporting as we tear out of Paris (and crawl into London two days later):

2 Hare Court (see

Carrley Business Consulting (see

Crown Office Chambers (see

Datamere (see

Elior (see

Marine Harvest (see

Tangle Teezer (see

Wilson Gunn (see

I hope you’ll tune into our blog updates throughout our preparation and the Arc to Arch event itself. You can support our endeavours, and these great charities, at or contact Paula Ferdinales ( / 0161 603 5000) to hear more about our corporate sponsorship packages.

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Down And Out In Paris And London

This week's blog comes from my colleague, and fellow Arc to Arch cyclist, Craig "Chopper" Chaplin. I hope you’ll tune into our blog updates throughout our preparation and the Arc to Arch event itself. You can support our endeavours, and these great charities, at or contact Hilary Garrett ( / 0161 603 5000) to hear more about our corporate sponsorship packages.

It's 6am on Thursday 2nd May. Literally 5 weeks to the day before I leave for Paris on this two wheeled adventure. Sat here tucking into an unhealthy panini, I am reflecting that my preparation to date could have been better. I'm behind on everything....the training schedule .....the weight loss....this blog...and time does not stand still. It was comforting to read that Robin was deliberately under-preparing also. What's the point in a charity ride if its a breeze? Donors expect expect sweat and tears (and ideally blood) and we shall give them what they want.

Destination Paris

Don't get me wrong, I have seen off similar challenges previously with a couple of Etapes (see under my belt but that was after some serious training under the watchful eye of my physio and cycling mentor Rob Harris (mates rates available - see Left to my own devices, I stay away from the hills and move closer to the fridge....not a good combination. This diesel has 15 stone to lug 300 miles in 3 days and whilst he is good at topping up his tank, his power to weight ratio has been better. This is when you turn to your team mates for support....and fortunately for me we have the A Team.

If we are the A Team then what is MY role? Whilst I would be an obvious contender for the Face Man Robin has bagsied that spot early doors (damn his boyish good looks!) and there is an obvious mad man Murdoch on board in Duncan (five marathons!). Steffan has promised to get a Mohawk if we manage to raise £10k and is exhibiting certain BA traits such as garish fashion sense of the bling variety (his bike gear is, ironically, less loud) and a certain singlemindedness, "I ain't sharing no room!". Just like BA, Steffan is clearly the strongest of the group and, just like Hannibal, I am clearly the most intelligent. More than that, I have the lung capacity of a 50 year old cigar smoker so it's a perfect fit. I love it when a plan comes together.....

"BA" getting to grips with a 7am gym session. "I pity the fool.. etc"

....And together it will come. I woke up a week ago feeling the fear and have been on my bike every day since (and have already had 2 punctures). I've upgraded my saddle for comfort and my wheels for a nice smooth ride, I've bought protein shake, gels, energy bars and a bike computer. One day soon, I'll even fit it to the bike. Today, I'm heading to Spain for some altitude training....unfortunately, the specific altitude I will be training at is sea level...but there are lots of places where I can hydrate with carbohydrate based energy drinks called "bars".

Two wheels good, no wheels better. "Murdoch" forgets his bike in San Francisco

The next 4 weeks will be intense. I plan to drop a stone and ride myself fit. The process has started and I'm not looking back. Commuting to work on two wheels will help, as will a couple of 6am starts so I can get some miles in BEFORE work. Hopefully, once I have nailed Paris to London, I'll go for my hatrick of Etapes. Thanks to physio Rob (Yoda) for his guidance, my colleagues for tolerating my monologues about training and weight loss (lack of) and Mrs C for being as (more?) committed to the cause than I am.

They are great charities, lets raise some cash and make some memories....

NYC Marathon, 2004

NYC Marathon, 2004
NYC Marathon, 2004