Man vs Coast

DP / 20 December 2021

Early in the summer, I completed an event called Man v Coast - an event I have been training and waiting for 3 years. I sat down with Aimee and we had a conversation about why I undertook the challenge, the self-doubt I experienced during the event itself, as well as my thoughts and feelings straight after the event. Now that I've had time to reflect on it, I will give my top tips for anyone considering a similar challenge when it comes to their health and fitness.

 You can read a transcript of our discussion below OR if you prefer to listen or watch you can do so here:  

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So I can imagine the event was quite grueling to say the least. So tell us a bit more about the event kind of, and how you were feeling?


Yeah, grueling is definitely definitely one of the words it, took in, in total. My time was, I think it was six hours, 18 minutes. And of that, you know, I was recording on my heart rate data and things. I saw the highest heart rate. I think I've seen since I was about 20. Luckily it was afterwards. So I didn't see it at the time, so it didn't put me off. And my average heart rate was really, really high. I mean higher than I think it had been in any training session since, since January. And the energy, energy expenditure was, was quite ridiculous. I mean, I, as you know, I don't really pay too much mind to calories and such. But according to, again, according to this, the, the energy expenditure was about 7,000 calories. Yeah. Which is, which is quite a lot in terms of how I was feeling during it.

I'd had a little hamstring injury in the weeks leading up, which I think I've, I've talked about already. So I was initially I was a little bit apprehensive about whether that was, that would bother me or not. Fortunately, it didn't, I had too many other aches and pains and just gen generally feeling tired too, to worry about I actually, I actually felt pretty good physically, I would say for almost up to about halfway. And then what happened just before that is that we we'd spent more time in the, in the water. And one thing I hadn't anticipated or bargained for was the effect that being obviously that hot and that kind of extreme exertion, then jumping in pretty cold seawater. One of the reactions of your body is just to go just and go into cramp. So you jump in the water and suddenly all the way up your legs would just cramp up.

And then obviously you've got to swim back and then you'd get back onto land. You'd still have some kind of cramp and then you'd have to start running again. And I pretty much had some kind of cramp or, you know, quite extreme tightness you in every muscle. Some of which I don't even know what they are to, I was trying to work it out as I was going along below my waist for most of the second half the, of the race. So it was some of it was almost trying to manage that. And then you're conscious that you perhaps changing your running style a little bit, and then you get the cramp to move more to the front of your legs <laugh> and then to the, to the back. And so, yeah, it was, it was, it was quite intense in that in that, in that way.

The other thing that was, that was interesting was I was, I was feeling you've got quite a lot, lot of time to think, and as I was doing it myself, I wasn't doing it as part of a team or with anybody else. I was completely on my own. I spoke to a few of the competitors, but most of the time I was, I was on my own. So you get quite, you get quite philosophical, and also because you're under quite an extreme exertion, I think it, it, it takes off some layers around, around your thinking that you, that you don't often get to. So yeah, I, I have few thoughts, which I, I made sure I, I wrote down later on that, that evening. So I was like, oh, this is interesting. I should probably bear, bear this in mind for the future.

And one of them, first of all, and this came from a conversation with a competitor actually when they asked what I did for a living and I, I told him and I said, oh, this will be easy for you then. And I was like not exactly. And I just thought that was really interesting how people assume that if you work in the world of health and fitness in some way, that you are some kind of world-class athlete and you know, the reality is, is really quite different. You know, as far as I see it, I'm the normal, normal guy I'm trying to run a business trying to kind of manage the demands of having a family and, and, and do any best. There certainly don't consider myself to be any type of athlete. And particularly in an event like this, as I've said already, I'm definitely, definitely not a runner.

So yeah, it was a long, long way out of my, out of my, my comfort zone. Other things I was thinking about, and I noted Dan, was that I was quite the eighties looking back. Cause I was thinking back over all the months that I was doing the training about the levels of self-doubt, I suppose I don't consider myself to be somebody who has a huge amount of self-doubt. And, but I definitely did when it came, came to this, you know, various times I was questioning it, am I too old to be doing something like this? Am I too heavy? Am I the wrong build? Do I have the discipline? And you know, am I too busy? Cuz that's, that's the obvious one. It does take up a lot of time and a lot of, lot of commitment. And all those things were coming up almost on a, on a weekly basis.

I guess particularly the discipline one was, was interesting to me because when I was younger and, and doing more sport, it's almost what you do. It, it, it doesn't take, you know, in your teens and I suppose the early twenties, it didn't seem to take that much effort. It was just part of your life. It was automatically a priority. It didn't feel like you were making any choice between that and something else. My a grand old age now, it, it felt like in order to do this, to do something, this extreme, I had to make a lot of quite deliberate and quite difficult choices to stick to the plan and make, make sure it happened. Then the other thing, I guess, going back to this, the self out a little bit was again, harking back to the part of the conversation earlier.

I, I was thinking about how my body hadn't changed as I'd expected. I expected, to lose quite a bit of weight and be much smaller, which would, would, would help me run. And actually, that didn't happen. I guess,, I was starting to come to terms with that by then, cause I didn't have enough choice and I was doing the event as I was. And it got me thinking about this concept about the right-sizing of your body. And I could think of some examples with clients, but do we do some of this try and force our body into a, a kind of a natural state and a natural shape. And by doing that, is that in itself quite unhealthy? So yeah, I was definitely thinking by trying to become, you know, a runner with a runner's physique that was probably not healthy for, for me, it was like I was trying to force my, my body to go into a shape they didn't want to do.

And in reality, in order to perform well, it's kind of, it sounds really obvious when you're saying no, but focusing on your health and being as healthy as possible of all. And so, so within certain parameters, allowing your body to be kind of how it wants to be natural, I dunno if I'm explaining that very well. But yeah, rather than trying to force it into a, a, a shape that it's definitely not suited or two. So that was, I, that was, I guess kind of one of the messages for me was that you know, what I, I, I kind of was right in that respect that I'm not, I'm not built ideally for extreme endurance, particularly distance running which kind of brings me onto another lesson, which is I was in two minds whether to share this with people actually. So I dunno whether it's slightly de slightly demotivating.

And I felt this sensation in some of my longer training runs. And I also felt it in the event is that for me, it felt like I got to a point where it stopped being healthy. It stopped being healthy, physically. It, you know, actually felt like I was potentially damaging my body. You know, I, I dunno what the exact time, but maybe something like two hours. So again, this, this will be a personal thing, you know, based, on genetics and stuff. But perhaps for me, the line, if you like for, you know, fairly intense activity is about two hours, maybe up to two hours, it's healthy. It makes me stronger. It makes me fitter. It benefits my organs, all that kind of stuff. But maybe after that, those benefits are not there anymore and it actually does become harmful. There is lots of research of course, on extreme endurance activities now and potential negative long-term health consequences. So I thought that was, that was quite an interesting thought, but I didn't wanna <laugh>, I didn't wanna be kind of discouraging exercise or putting people off, but it's definitely taught me that this is not something that I think is good for me to do over and over again. So I won't be doing another one in, in the next few months and I would definitely think very carefully before doing anything that extreme again because you know, my all-around health is, is so, so important to me.


Okay. I'll cross your name off the next marathon list.


Not for me. Thank


You. Okay. So you said kinda how you were feeling during the event. What did you feel like immediately after the event?


Relief <laugh> that it's, that it stopped? The last few miles were quite, were quite difficult because it was said we were going around the coast path and you kept kind of coming around these Headlands and there was another beach and, and I thought, surely this must be the last one. And there seemed to be another one and another one. And it seemed to drag on, for quite a long time. So funny, funny enough, the last maybe kilometer I noticed there was a lady who I actually started right alongside who was just ahead of me. And we'd met a couple of times on the, on the route as well. And I was and I was like, right, well, this team's fitting. We should like finish together having started together. So I did make a bit of an effort and I used to catch her up.

So we, so we crossed the line together despite the cramp and the cards and things. So immediately after I, I, the fatigue, I suppose, didn't really set in for a couple of hours, and then bit by bit, my whole body just really tightened up. I was obviously very thirsty, so I was, I had protein shakes and stuff ready. So I had recovery shakes lows and nos of electrolyte drinks. And then fortunately near where we were staying, they had what turned out to be a very good pizza restaurant. So I an enormous pizza and yeah, basically stuffed my face. And then that, that night I really struggled to get to sleep. I could feel my heart rate was still very high. My body was still very hot. It was actually, it was the night England played Ukraine as well. So yeah, I stayed up watching that, and then I couldn't really sleep very well.

I ended up going at leaving our hotel room and going out and trying to sleep in the car. Just because I, I needed a change, a scene. I went, I put some music on, listened to a podcast. Did eventually fall asleep in the car in some strange position and then woke up and could barely move. I'd kind of completely seized up. And so the next day when I, I did go back to bed after that and I was to sleep it, I was just really tight. I was limping around basically very, very sore. And I had to drive home because I kept getting a little bounce of cramp and things. So yeah, I was, I was a bit of a mess of the following day and I think that day after I, when eased up a bit, I actually had to go to London on a train, which is probably quite a good thing.

I ended up walking around a bit after that. But that whole week, the following week, that was probably the most interesting thing to me. I just felt it was very deep, kind of down your bones down to your core sense that all my reserves were gone and not just physically, it was mentally, I just had zero patience. I'm perhaps not the most patient of chaps anyway. But the same, I'm usually of five out of 10. I was definitely down one. So you just felt this really deep core tiredness that I've only experienced a few times before. And I reckon that probably took, I probably took three weeks to recover from. The other thing I suppose in the, in the, in the few days after was kind of, I felt a bit, actually, it was a bit, a bit of an anti-climax because you know, lots of people were saying to me, oh, you know, you must feel amazing.

You may, you should be so proud what an achievement, you know, all this, this kind of thing. And I was just like, well, it's, it's done. Not that I, I dunno if, if I took it for granted I suppose I didn't really doubt that I was actually to do it, certainly not in the last, certainly not when I was doing it. Certainly in the last few weeks, I did a bit before with injuries and things. So I guess I just, in the back of my mind, it was always an assumption that I would find a way, to do it. So I, I didn't, I wasn't really acknowledging it as much of an achievement. Other people seem to be. Then I spoke to another one of our clients actually, who does, who does lots of endurance events. And he, and he said to me, actually, he said, do you find it, you feel a bit, a bit down and a bit lost in a few days after this. And I was like, yes, that's exactly what I'm, what I'm feeling. <Affirmative> and we talked about it and thought that you know, part of it is that you don't have a mission anymore. You know, it's been such a big part of your life for so many months, and then that's gone. So you're kind of a bit, a bit ruthless, so to speak. So that was, that was quite an interesting center.


Okay. And I guess finally, for anyone considering kind of setting themselves a big challenge like this, what would be your top three tips? You'd give them


Okay., this is an interesting one because Anna, my, my half, actually, I'm not saying as a result of this, but she's actually just committed and I'm just gonna say this life on here. For some accountability, for her to take on some kind of physical challenge herself next year might be a bite race or we're not, not entirely sure yet. So I guess things I would say is that I, I really, really, really, really recommend people doing it. I think it's really, really powerful to have a goal like that, that goes alongside any of the, a goal that you're working on when it comes to your, your health and fitness or your, or your body. Because it, it means that if you are looking to change, you know, change your body shape, for example, that will probably happen as a byproduct of the, of the focus on this, this other goal.

So it means you, it, I think it can help people not get too overly focused on aesthetics and on their, on their physique. So that's very helpful. I was trying to stick to three things. I'm not sure if I can, firstly, what I was saying is that I think we all have a tendency to underestimate ourselves and underestimate what we can actually achieve when we set our minds to it. All of us, you know, we have these incredible bodies that are kind of there to be used, and much of the time we don't use them, we don't express ourselves in that way. And I think that's a real, that's a real shame because there's so much to be gained from doing it. And so if we are underestimating ourselves, we're also missing out on that potential. And it's, I know it's a bit, a bit of a cliche, but a lot of that potential for growth for, you know, some kind of transformation of building and building confidence comes from doing stuff that is outside of our comfort zone.

And of course the further you go outside your comfort zone, the more your potential there is there. So definitely don't underestimate yourself, do take on something that's big enough that it does make you doubt and scale a little bit because in overcoming that I, I think there's, there's that, that a big part of the benefit I'd also say choose something that you have a real connection with and there's it inspires you in some way, rather than just, I wanna do a marathon, I'll do the nearest one, or I wanna do a marathon. I'll just do the under marathon, cuz that's the kind of the go-to choice. Be a bit more creative, look at other types of challenges and yeah, pick something that, that you have a deeper connection with some kind of emotional connection, whether it's to do with people or to do with places. And I think that will not only help you stay motivated along the way, but it will make you more meaningful and more satisfying when you come to doing whatever it is.

I've said it already, I guess, choose something that's big enough that it, that it does scale. That was the whole premise behind, behind what I did. I'm very glad that part of that coaching course did suggest that, but the caveat to that would be, if you're going to do that, you have to do it right. So you have to give yourself enough time. You have to plan things properly you know, get a coach involved in what you do. So you have some objective input. And so you can review what you're doing along the way, because again, back to you know, what I was speaking about earlier that we all have other commitments and other priorities, we've all got, you know, partners, families, businesses, jobs, et cetera, et cetera. It has to work alongside those things. So you have to give yourself the right amount of time so you can plan it in so that it becomes the thing that enhances your life rather than being more likely that it, it takes away and becomes some kind of, some kind of compromise.

And lastly, I dunno how many things I'm up to now probably too many. Lastly, it would be to in like deliberately involved with people. So not any of this provides some accountability because you know, once you've told people that you're gonna to do something, once you've committed to it publicly, then that's a pretty strong motivation to help you do that. But the reality is if you're gonna take on a big challenge, you need the help of other people. You need them to be on your team. You need them to be on your side, you need them to be your, your supporters. Yeah, I can't tell you how much it helped to see my, my children, at, at one of the drink stops. And you know, I've got a whole list of people who, who helped me do it and I might have been able to do it without the help, but I can tell you, it would've been a whole lot more difficult you know, physiotherapists, sports, massage people who helped me with the training plan coaches.

I'm trying to think who, who else anybody, you know, I did training runs with, and then I guess most of all my, my family sat Anna and, and my girls who accepted that on, you know, Sunday mornings, for example, I probably wouldn't be around for, for quite a few hours. And also the girls were very good at getting faster and faster on their bikes. So I had to run faster and faster to keep them up, to keep up with them which definitely pushed my training on significantly. And it just gave me extra. It gave me extra motivation to do it as well. So it was like, well yes, I'm training and I'm getting something out of it, but then so are they, so we're all, it's like, we're all it together. So yeah, I, I would say deliberately involved with the people because you will need them.


Perfect. It's been really great to hear about your experience with man versus coast from the training and leading up to it and kind of your decision, why to do the event and to how you were feeling, I guess, drawing and after the event. So do you have any final, final comments?


I'm not sure. I'm not sure any, I think I've, I've talked about most things that I, I wanted to I guess I just go back to, it's been a useful insight for people. Because again, a lot of people used to assume that because you work in the world of health and fitness, that all this kind of stuff is, is easy. And guess what? We're human we're, we're people too. But if it did in any way, inspire anybody to take on a challenge, then I'd be very, very happy about that. And if anybody does want to talk about it a little bit more, then very open, to do that. And just, I guess, underscore the thing about not underestimating ourselves and, you know, I, I believe that everybody has, has it within them to, to do something, you know, really quite amazing when it comes to the health, you know, regardless of where they're, where they're at on their journey.

Even if they're just starting out, you know, so, and it's, it's, it is relative isn't, you know, if, if someone hasn't done any exercise for a long period of time, then you know, a huge achievement for them is quite different to somebody who already does a reasonable amount of exercise or who already, you know, has a sport or a hobby that they, they do to a certain level. But neither is like, a greater or lesser achievement. And I guess watching the Olympics at the moment is, is a bit more inspiration for that as well. Hearing, hearing people's stories and, you know, not everybody in, in the Olympics who's even there or who is winning medals has followed the normal path or has been doing the sport or whatever since there were three, some people have come to it quite late and, and done it in a relatively short spirit period of time.

So yeah, I, I guess I just encourage anybody that if they, if they do want to take on a challenge, if they do want to transform their health <affirmative> or, you know, or do any kind of physical challenge like that, that there are just huge benefits to be had physically and mentally. And I guess very importantly, a lot of those benefits are transferable to everything that you do. So the confidence that you build, the strength that you develop in your body and your mind, you can use that in your job. You can use that in your, in your personal life and it will, it'll make everything else better. So yeah, don't underestimate yourself and, and, and be brave and, and take something on.


Thank you.

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