The Fierce Five Challenges Completed

This is a video I put together which summarises the challenges, the charities I fundraised for and how much in total I raised.
It also importantly highlights the fact that I would never have been able to do any of this without the support of my amazing wife Angela – The nights and weekends of not having me there with our 2 year old whilst I was off training or competing – She has been an absolute rock!

Fundraising Breakdown

If you don’t want to find out in the video, I raised in total £4,519.88 for the five charities which I’m massively over the moon about, considering that if I added up all of my fundraising targets it would have come to £2,600.00 – so I raised an additional £1,919.88 more than what I thought was possible. I smashed all of my fundraising targets thanks to the amazing generous donations from friends, family and even people I’ve never met before (a special mention goes out to Steven – you know who you are).

Challenges 1 & 2: Swim 1,000 x 25m lengths of a swimming pool & The Great North Swim, Windermere
Charities: Daytrippers Bolton & Kidz2gether
Target: £1,000.00
Raised: £1,721.16

Challenge 3: Coast 2 Coast 2 Coast
Charity: Robert Jones and Agnes Hunt Orthopaedic Hospital Trust Fund
Target: £1,000.00
Raised: £1,756.25

Challenge 4: Tough Mudder 2014, Yorkshire
Charity: AFC Masters Football Club
Target: £300.00
Raised: £425.00

Challenge 5: The Great North Run 2014, Newcastle
Charity: National Autistic Society
Target: £300.00
Raised: £617.47

Fierce Five Challenges – Hardest, Easiest, Most Fun, Best Moment, Worst Moment

Hardest Challenge – Physically
Overall it would have to be the Coast 2 Coast 2 Coast due to what it took out of me. The 1,000 lengths swim was probably as hard than the cycling part of the coast 2 coast, but the running/walking part was insanely hard – resulting in blisters, shin splints, long term injuries and strapping.
Order: Coast 2 Coast 2 Coast, 1000 lengths swim, Tough Mudder, Great North Run, Great North Swim

Hardest Challenge – Mentally
They were all mentally incredibly hard which I didn’t realise before I started training for everything. It is the mental endurance more so than physical endurance that gets you through each challenge.
Overall, including training I would say the 1,000 x 25m length challenge was the toughest mentally. The event itself was tough mentally but I was prepared due to the huge amount of training I did up to the event. There were many dark moments when training on my own up to 600 – 700 lengths for 10 hours in a pool with just my own mind and thoughts.
The Great North Run was the toughest event running on an injury and not being able to stop like I was able to in the Coast 2 Coast 2 Coast.
Order: 1000 lengths swim, Great North Run, Coast 2 Coast 2 Coast, Tough Mudder, Great North Swim

Most Fun
Tough Mudder was without doubt the most fun challenge I did. This event is not just about physical or mental endurance but the team spirit and camaraderie you get in your team is like nothing other I’ve witnessed.
I did have many laughs with Aidy though on the Coast 2 Coast 2 Coast – he was such a top bloke throughout and kept me going whenever I felt like giving up.
Order: Tough Mudder, Coast 2 Coast 2 Coast, Great North Swim, 1000 lengths swim, Great North Run

Best Moment
Too many to choose from – it was a great feeling beating the guy at breaststroke during the Great North Swim but I have to say coming down St Bees Head, the place I’ve visited so many times as a kid, and seeing my own family waiting for me at the bottom to congratulate me on completing the Coast 2 Coast 2 Coast.
It was also amazing cycling/free-wheeling 5 miles downhill over 30mph towards Robin Hoods Bay on a roasting hot day seeing the coast coming into view for the first time and then arriving at the sea – that would have been enough on it’s own but to return back again and to the people I cared about most was an amazing feeling!

Worst Moment
There were a few dark moments, one I’ve already mentioned when training for the 1,000 length swim and being completely lonely and bored and just angry with having to keep going.
The return part of the Coast 2 Coast 2 Coast when I was walking on injured legs was pretty rubbish but I had Aidy to help me and keep me cheery.
The Great North Run was pretty grim, the event was supposedly addictive, being told I’ll want to do it every year. My running training was so good up to this event but the injury I received just before the event meant that I had to run most of it in agony. At many parts I just wanted it to be over and didn’t know if I had 2 miles or 6 miles to go – but I persevered and got through it thanks to the positive mental training I had done up to this event and the other events – without it I may have not been able to complete it
…. OH YEAH the ambulance trip and hyperventilating after the 1,000 length swim was pretty rubbish as well.

…well that was a bit grim – OK now say something nice about each of the Five Challenges

1,000 lengths swim
The free swimming membership provided by Horwich Lesuire Centre for training. People swimming with me on the day

Great North Swim
My family who came with me for support and beating the fastest guy I’ve ever met at breaststroke also meaning I was the fastest in my wave.

Coast 2 Coast 2 Coast
Aidy keeping me cheery throughout as well as our Keswick night out the day before we returned. The woman who sold me some high grade walking boots for half price due to the charity challenge. The post challenge pub fundraiser was also absolutely fantastic raising over £500.

Tough Mudder
The team spirit was unbelievable and I really bonded with my top mate Jonny. Completing it and everyone hugging and laughing about certain obstacles.

Great North Run
Seeing Angela and Sebastian at the end, having a few teary moments during the run knowing that the Fierce Five Challenges was coming to an end.

Fierce Five Challenges Cost

I spent A LOT of my own money to ensure that I could do these events. I spread this cost over January to September and funded it with a part time graphics design and website development job I’ve been doing in the evenings. Without trying to sound like I’m glorifying myself the following is a brief breakdown of the costs of setting up the Fierce Five Challenges in case anyone is interested in doing something like this themselves – although of course it could be done a lot cheaper than how I did it:

Swim 1,000 x 25m lengths of a swimming pool
•  1,000 length swim pool & training gear – £36.00
•  Nutrition & energy supplements cost – £197.00
Total challenge cost £233.00

Great North Swim 2014, Windermere
•  Entry cost – £39.00
•  Wetsuit – £60.00
•  Transportation, parking and ferry costs – £40.00
Total challenge cost £139.00

Coast 2 Coast 2 Coast
•  1 night camping hire – £20.00
•  3 nights bed and breakfast hire – £125.50 (4 nights cost nothing)
•  Nutrition & energy supplements cost – £196.00
•  Walking boots – £70.00
•  Bike storage pouches, backpack, tubes, spare battery chargers – £76.00
•  Food/drink allowance – £200.00
Total challenge cost £687.50

Tough Mudder 2014, Yorkshire
•  Entry cost – £74.13
•  Nutrition & energy supplements cost – £45.93
•  New trail running shoes – £40.00
•  Transportation & parking – £30.00
Total challenge cost £190.06

Great North Run 2014, Newcastle
•  Entry cost – £50.00
•  Nutrition & energy supplements cost – £12.98
•  Transportation & parking costs – £40.00
Total challenge cost £102.98

Fierce Five Challenges Total Cost £1,352.54 

(Total entry costs – £163.13)
(Total equipment & gear costs – £282.00)
(Total nutrition & energy supplements costs – £451.91)

…Finally Special Mentions and Thank You’s

I could not have done any of these challenges without the kindness and support SO MANY people have shown me since the beginning of this year.

Suzi Moores & The Horwich Leisure Centre
Suzi was amazing with ensuring that I had everything ready on the day of my 1,000 length swim including my own swimming lane. She even swam my first lengths with me as support. The Horwich Leisure Centre gave me a free swimming and gym membership from March to May which Suzi sorted out so that I could go in whenever I wanted to train.

Tom Irving
Tom is a head dietitian and leading sports nutritional specialist. Tom gave me so much support and advice in terms of preparing myself for each event and what supplements to take in the run up to the challenge as well as just before, during and afterwards.

Tim Cromaty
I’ve known Tim since school but we become really close again recently and especially during the Five Challenges. Tim is a swimming legend who gave me loads of advice, a pair of his best goggles which I used for both swim challenges, and a heap of support and praise.

Lisa Eccleshare
Lisa spent hours and hours tirelessly contacting bed & breakfasts all around the route I was taking during the Coast 2 Coast 2 Coast challenge. In the end she was able to secure three bed and breakfasts which offered either free or heavily discounted rates saving me around £300 in B&B hire costs.

Adrian Thomson-Massey
The absolute legend who kept me cheery throughout the Coast 2 Coast 2 Coast challenge. From being positive, to stopping when I needed to rest my injured legs, putting on his comedy podcasts to cheer me up, having a top time each night after completing each day especially the Keswick night out we had on our penultimate day.

Gareth Macdonald
Gareth lent me his bike for the cycling part of the Coast 2 Coast 2 Coast challenge. I had no idea at the time but I damaged the gears from it’s excessive use. After I learned about this I offered to pay for the repairs and he kindly declined saying it’s no problem.

The Bowling Green Pub, Horwich
Nicola and Jason Monks, the owners of The Bowling Green Pub, have been absolutely amazing throughout the Five Challenges. Firstly they let me put a donations pot on the bar for the swimming challenges which came to around £70. Then most importantly they provided the Bowling Green Pub so that I could host a fundraiser after I completed the Coast 2 Coast 2 Coast challenge. They provided a free DJ, free pasties, two huge free cakes and most importantly the barrel of beer which was donated by Blackedge Brewery, every penny made from selling the beer went to the fundraiser. The fundraiser total came to over £500.

Blackedge Brewery, Horwich
Blackedge Brewery donated a barrel (firkin – 80 pints) of beer for the fundraiser I hosted at my local pub. They were so eager to support the fundraiser so I am massively thankful to them for this kind donation.

Samantha-Jayne Brady
Once I completed the Coast 2 Coast 2 Coast challenge I decided at the very last minute to do a raffle for the fundraiser I had planned at my local pub. For a raffle I needed prizes and I met Sam online after posting on a local website page about local companies wanting to donate any prizes. Sam, who I’ve never properly met before, went around my local town of Horwich and spent the whole day visiting shops asking if they would like to donate. Sam was able to get 13 raffle prizes which were worth over £500. What an amazing kind person Sam is I love her to bits 🙂

Fundraiser Raffle Prize Donators
I mentioned how grateful I was for Sam for searching for local companies but I have to thank those who actually donated prizes from beauty products to meal vouchers to bowling & cinema vouchers to champagne. Incredible stuff and goes to show how kind local businesses can be when supporting good causes.

Park House Bed & Breakfast, Ingleby Cross
Beverley & Michael Robins were absolutely unbelievable. Not only did they provide us with a free night’s B&B but they were so attentive when we arrived, making small repairs to our bikes, washing clothes after I accidentally rolled around in some dog doo doo and even when we returned back to Ingleby Cross on our return journey Michael found us in the local pub and afterwards drove us back to our alternate B&B and said Beverley had made us some homemade flapjacks.

The Fat Lamb Bed & Breakfast, Kirkby Stephen
Paul Bonsall gave us a free night’s B&B and a heavily discounted night’s B&B (busy Saturday) which we were so grateful for. However, Paul was unbelievably caring when we massively underestimated our first day’s cycle arriving at 1am instead of 9pm. Paul who was supposed to finish at 10pm waited up for us and still showed us to our rooms.

Bridgedown House Bed & Breakfast, Richmond
Jennifer was absolutely lovely and gave us a free night’s B&B. When we arrived she showed us to our room, provided ice for injuries and kindly left us to our own devices.

I didn’t want to give Stephen’s full name as he would probably think against it being his humble, kind nature. Before I started the Coast 2 Coast 2 Coast challenge I decided to go to each B&B dropping off supplies so that they were waiting for us before we arrived. I met Stephen at one of the B&Bs on one of the drop offs and I was in a mad rush to get around to each one. Stephen overheard the conversation I was having with the B&B owners about the challenge and when I bumped into him he wanted to know more details. He gave me some very warm words of praise and encouragement and off we went to the next B&B. What happened next was amazing – on a Facebook Radio 2 page I wrote what I was planning on doing for the challenge and Stephen’s better half Carole wrote a reply on my post saying that Stephen had told her about my challenge and recognised who I was from the conversation. Stephen and Carole are from the other side of the country and we have no mutual friends on Facebook. The link was incredible – and THEN they donated £120. Incredible kind and lovely people – Stephen and I talk regularly now on Facebook – he and Carole are such a lovely couple.

Mystery Great North Run Swimmer
Thanks to the guy who gave me the greatest race I’ve ever been in. The guy was massively muscular and I thought I wouldn’t have a chance of beating him until right at the end when I pipped him.

Angela and Sebastian Carruthers
I’ve already mentioned Angela in the video and at the top of this post but STILL, TRULY, she has been incredibly supportive these last 9 months. When I came up with the idea of doing the challenges Angela was very reluctant with me doing them as she knew that it would entail a lot of hours away from home training. I have honestly tried as best as I could to fit the training around her and Sebastian, such as doing it after Sebastian went to bed and Angela watching her nightly soaps marathon. But there were lots of times when I simply was not there and adding this to the times I’m already not there when I’m off doing my voluntary commitments she has been incredibly supportive. On a selfish note I’ve had to give up a lot of time with Angela and Sebastian, time which I’ll never get back but I knew the sacrifices before undertaking the challenges and I am more than ever making up for the lost time.

…and Finally…
Thank you to absolutely everyone who have supported me whether it being incredible donations or just asking how I’m getting on. There family members who were throwing in £100 donations each time for each challenge which was incredible – but there were also people such as Carole Brennan giving me a huge box of high-grade pasta for free as it was one of the only things I was eating at the time preparing for the challenges. Friends in the pub asking how I was getting on, random people in the pool asking about my swimming challenge, Jonny Turnbull for getting me through Tough Mudder – everyone you have been so kind and I would NOT have accomplished anything close to what I have achieved these past 9 months.

Now everything has finished I’m very restless at the moment and it’s very hard keeping the healthy eating regime. I still can’t do any running until I’ve fixed my leg which I injured during the Coast 2 Coast 2 Coast and made worse during the Great North Run.

I hope to do at least Tough Mudder next year, improve on my swimming & running and perhaps hope to do something huge in 2016. It’s all secrets at the moment and depends on if Angela would divorce me if I was away again.

I’m very proud of what I’ve achieved but most of all I’m just proud of the money that I’ve raised for the incredible charities I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know this year. I’ve made amazing new friends along the way and rekindled friendships with old friends which I will always be in touch with.

The Fierce Five Challenges has been an incredible ride!

Returning on TowerFM to update and promote my latest challenge

This morning I was invited back on TowerFM to give an update and promote my latest challege as their Twit Face of the day! As a reminder, the feature consists of three songs and then someone comes on to promote a cause and leave a Facebook or Twitter link so that people can find out more information. What was also amazing was the show was also being played live on WireFMPeakFM and WishFM, covering areas of Warrington, Wigan as well as Bolton.


Clip Length: 4 mins 00 secs

Click the speaker icon to listen


Bolton FM Second Radio Feature Update

Bolton FM have kindly updated their listeners on my progress with the Fierce Five Challenges. Andrew, the presenter updated everyone on my 1,000 length swim and that I’m doing the Great North Swim tomorrow! He also promoted the charities Daytrippers and Kidz2gether so that’s fantastic too!!!

Clip Length: 1 min 39 secs

Click the speaker icon to listen

A fantatic mention on Bolton FM – Thank you so much for the continued support you’ve given me.

1,000 Lengths Swim….. well not quite…. 830 plus a trip in an ambulance

Well today was the Big Day! and it almost went to plan! I had to retire at 830 lengths because my lungs were so sore from the constant breathing for 13 hours. The top and lower part of my breathing hurt incredibly which resulted in me breathing quicker in the mid-range. This resulted in me not getting the carbon dioxide out of my lungs consequently making me breathe faster and faster (AKA hyperventilating) causing more pain and dizzyness! Towards the end my breaks were taking longer and longer as I was needing more time to recover before getting back into the pool but at 830 lengths my breathing didn’t recover and in fact got worse – so I had to retire which was absolutely gutting!!

If I have to be honest, although the Horwich Leisure Centre have been amazing with setting up everything, making me comfortable on the day and providing me with so much support – it wasn’t really the ideal venue to do the 1,000 with hindsight. It was TOO warm as I stated in last week’s article (500 length Practice Swim) which resulted in me having to breathe more and cool down more often getting out of the pool. I completed 700 lengths at Manchester Aquatics Centre without any complications knowing perfectly I could have done 1,000 on that day but at 500 lengths in at Horwich Leisure Centre I knew something was wrong. My form was great, energy, muscles and everything – even my knee wasn’t too bad with the knee support I put on. But I knew my breathing was getting sore and I just hoped it wouldn’t get any worse – which unfortunately it did! After 830 and getting out of the pool, getting changed and sitting on a chair at the Leisure Centre entrance I realised I needed an ambulance. I was quite distressed to be fair and it took ages to be assessed seriously at Bolton Hospital until I was given some very strong painkillers to allow me to breathe properly.

BUT what was incredible was that my friends Danny and Karen decided to jump in the pool and finish off the 170 lengths swim with the lengths my brother Pete already did with me during the day!

The support I got throughout! WOW it was incredible. From charity members to friends and family – getting cheers and roars of encouragement and waves and smiles it absolutely helped me to even get to 830. Pete my brother did 150 lengths with me (his previous PB was 50!!). Tim Cromarty got in the pool with me and did some lengths and coached me and making me comfortable throughout! Suzy who organised everything including getting up early on the day to make sure I got in the pool OK and everything and even did my warm up lengths with me too.

Summary: Swimming 1,000 was never a personal achievement. Don’t get me wrong it would have been amazing to have got there but I am proud of my 830 lengths with the thousands of lengths training I have done previously! HOWEVER, my personal achievement and main aim was to raise a ton of cash and awareness for the two charities which I DID FANTASTICALLY! We smashed the £1,000 mark last night so it was amazing knowing that this morning. So many beautiful caring people I’m so lucky and blessed to have them in my life!

I will move onto the Great North Swim event now still brimming with confidence and training starts next Monday!

20140507_100649 Me in Pool20140506_212008_Crown Ln20140507_09093520140507 - 700 Lengths20140507 - 600 lengths20140507 - 500 lengths20140507 - 400 lengths

500 length Practice Swim

So I got the day off work today and I did my 500 length practice swim at Horwich Leisure Centre. I was quite exhausted afterwards actually but I knew this was due to not a lot of sleep (nerves) and carb loading the night before.

Even still, my 500 lengths pace was much quicker than the previous time I did the 500 lengths. I also noticed that it’s a lot warmer in the pool than I was used to at Manchester Aquatics Centre. An awesome swimmer who was swimming in my lane that I was speaking to told me that she also thought the same.

Still, I should be fine for next week 🙂

700 Lengths Done! But without exaggerating – It Was Hell! (Overtraining, Injuries)

I was massively looking forward to this! To be fair I didn’t feel 100% getting into the pool beforehand. I did go to bed early but couldn’t drift off so I think I had less than 6 hours sleep. I still warmed up really well and ate the correct foods and breakfast.

With the injuries I got these could have been from the Good Friday Pike walking with Seb on my shoulders on the carrier. My back was absolutely fine throughout so that’s a positive but my knee and Achilles tendon, Not Good!

My right knee went about 2 hours into the swim, the same knee that’s been plaguing me since This Injury (click to read) from running. At this point I couldn’t use my legs at all. I tried to adapt my kick just using my left leg but it was useless – I spent the next 3 hours in agony using ONLY my arms which took on more strain. Three times during the main section I thought about giving up and going home early – the Easy Option. But my arrogance got the better of me and ensured that I got as much of the main section done as possible seeing how I got on.

Towards the end of the main section when I was in the upper pool at Manchester Aquatics Centre my knee felt a lot better, but then my left Achilles tendon became very sore so I had to reduce the power of my kick again. After coping with this the knee injury came back in the penultimate and final 70 length sections.

Throughout the swim I was so depressed and couldn’t distract myself and daydream to pass the time. I felt every minute of it! Still, I was SO proud of myself getting through it although I had no lumps in my throat this time because I knew I’m over-training. My knee today is still very sore and my left foot is also. I’m considering reducing Sunday’s 800 lengths to 500 and seeing how I get on, the slightest sign of pain I’ll just get out of the pool and save myself for the 1,000 lengths.

What also worries me is I need this knee for the Coast to Coast challenge for the 8 days of mega endurance. I might need to see a specialist but I’m unsure what they can suggest in the little time I have left.

Warm Up First Sub-Section Main Section Second Sub-Section Cool Down
Lengths 50 x 50m 90 x 50m Mixed 70 x 25m 70 x 25m
Pace 60 80 70 60
Minutes 103 129 212 59 69
Actual 65 137 200 53 52
Main Section 1 Main Section 2 Main Section 3 Main Section 4
Lengths 36 x 50m 28 x 50m 76 x 25m 76 x 25m
Minutes 70 54 47 41
Actual 51 42 54 53

Suzy from Serco – great suggestions for 1,000 length difficulty awareness

Ultimate Christmas DaySuzy sent across some really helpful information after I asked why it was absolutely painful swimming in cold water and that I needed ways of getting people to recognise the difficulty of the 1,000 swim challenge.

In regards to the cold she came back to me with a website article which explains that in cold water your body needs more energy to keep the muscles warm and to get them working properly in the cold water. This makes absolute sense and I can now understand why swimming 600 lengths at Manchester Aquatic Centre was miles more difficult compared to swimming 500 lengths at Farnworth Leisure Centre…. apart from the distance obviously.

I also sent this to Suzy:

I’ve had real problems getting the awareness of this challenge off the ground and donations coming in. I think it’s difficult for people to realise how hard this challenge is as they have nothing to compare it to or any history of people having done something similar. The London Marathon – for example – is about a 4 hour run burning around 2,500 to 3,500 calories whereas the 1,000 length swim in breaststroke will take over 12 hours and burn up to 8,000 calories. Now I’m not saying the marathon is easy or less difficult – my god I’d hate to enter it! But people appreciate and understand and can compute how difficult it might be resulting in donations – unlike doing 25k in a pool and all the training with it. I need to get the awareness up without trying to sound arrogant and big headed! I’m hoping to get some fund-raising ideas sorted soon to boost the profile. Any thoughts you have on this would be appreciated.”

She sent me some fantastic fact information which I’ve developed into a long graphic which you can see on the right. It basically runs through a mega food/drink Christmas Day and showing how you would go about consuming 8,000 calories.

I’ll post this online towards the time in the hope that it will boost donations. I can also put that doing the Iron Man, running two marathons back to back, cycling 170 miles or rowing 90 miles would also equate to burning around 8,000 calories.

600 lengths for training – done OUCH! (240 x 50m, 120 x 25m)

Sunday was different – GOOD: did the 15K, got some good feedback, did it in the allotted time. BAD: cold water, muscle/back aches, 50m lengths, and THE COLD!

So yeah the water was cold at Manchester Aquatics Centre


I did the 600 lengths (15K) in two parts, the first in the basement 50m training pool, completing 240 x 50m lengths. Believe me that is a long way. And my god it was cold – I need to get that across! Anyway, apparently this is kept cold for the athletes who train as it prevents overheating when they’re absolutely nailing it. The second part was 120 x 25m lengths in the ground floor pool as the image above.

I went through all 18 bottles so I will need more for next week’s 700 lengths… 😥 I don’t want to think about that yet!!!

So a third of the way through my total lengths I was feeling my left shoulder clicking again and after a while my back started getting sore. I do think though the back was due to just poor form as I was having a good look around the new facilities keeping myself sane.

When I got to two thirds through, my back was a better but both shoulders, my right runners knee issue and FEET?? became sore and numb with tiredness.

At just over two thirds through I was aware that the basement 50m pool was closing shortly so I ended up talking to the lifeguards who were really interested and impressed in the challenge and training, one of which promised to bring in £5 for next week!!! Amazing – I don’t even know the guy but he said “I think what you’re doing is really commendable”. Wow!

I went upstairs into the 25m pool which felt like 10m after being in the huge pool for so long – but the lengths didn’t countdown quickly at all. It felt like an age getting to the final 60 length set.

Warm Up First Sub-Section Main Section Second Sub-Section Cool Down
Lengths 46 x 50m 75 x 50m 120 x 50m 60 x 25m 60 x 25m
Pace 60 80 See Below 70 60
Minutes 88 110 181 50 59
Actual 58 100 162 40 44
Main Section 1 Main Section 2 Main Section 3 Main Section 4
Lengths 30 x 50m 30 x 50m 30 x 50m 30 x 50m
Minutes 60 46 40 35
Actual 30 34 35 38