Monthly Mentor: November – Charles Malet

Charlie at the end of the Gloucestershire Way

Charlie at the end of the Gloucestershire Way

This month we meet Charles who is so well travelled, without it actually being his job, that if he was an Empire, three quarters of the world map would be pink.

He is currently a master brewer at The Force Brewery in Cirencester, producing four premium quality ales, which are spreading far and wide, such is their attraction.

In a former life Charles started competing at a young age in swimming and both track and field events, being successful on the national circuit with the javelin. He has always been naturally fit, which is why when he joined the Army the basic exertions came easily to him, meaning that he had to diversify into extra curricular activities to really push the boundaries. These included rugby, cross country, orienteering, endurance events and triathlons. He has also completed a solo bicycle ride from John O’Groats to Land’s End in seven and a half days, River Thames from Lechlade to London in a slalom kayak in three days, Three Peaks Challenge (UK) in nineteen hours (self-driving…..) and has reached the summit of Thabana Ntleyana, Lesotho (11,424ft) from Sani Pass and back in six hours.

After a long period of rehabilitation for injuries sustained whilst in Afghanistan, Charles, remarkably returned to endurance events, competing in a triathlon in the East Riding of Yorkshire. This particular event will always stick in the memory as he had to borrow a bike from the organiser for the third leg, who had understood the unavoidable problems Charles was facing with his own racing bike. As Charles approached the change over he was handed a mountain bike with half flat wheels and a plastic baby seat fixed to the cross bar! The lead that he had built was eaten away with every rotation of the pedals.

Not sure the Brownlee brothers would think this was suitable

Not sure the Brownlee brothers would think this was suitable

Most recently Charles has ran 94 miles in just over 28 hours completing the Gloucestershire Way from the start in Chepstow, along a very ambiguously maintained path, to the finish line of the beautiful wrought iron gates of Tewkesbury Abbey.

The ups and downs of the Gloucestershire Way

The ups and downs of the Gloucestershire Way

Whilst there are others that have done 100 miles in 24 hours, there are very few that have done that distance up and down the topography of the Costwolds, including May Hill (974 ft), areas of the route which were completely overgrown or almost impassable without a machete; with a lot of the route being infested with nettles, which we will all agree are tiresome at the best of times, let alone for hours on end. Charles sustained serious foot injuries and blisters yet retained a smile all the way round.

The route

The route

There is a great post exercise report posted HERE. He did this with two friends in support of a charity called Alabaré who help homeless ex-Servicemen get prepared for unsupported reintegration into society and the workplace.

Charles might not be a serial endurance athlete, but the determination, stoicism and modesty that is engrained in his fantastic personality, makes the events he has completed all the more impressive. He is also one of the wisest people I know and therefore to get sensible advice from him about training and competition, especially after recovering from injury, should be shared with the masses.

Last months Mentor (Katie L’Herpiniere) made a comment that following events she has participated in she is no longer too afraid to try anything in business or sport. How do you get past the natural hurdles of anticipation, denial and your mind not wanting to start, let alone continue?

I’m not sure that it would count as a considered strategy, but I have always found that making a decision to commit to something is irreversible; a sort of magnified version of buying a non-refundable ticket. This means that any sort of wobble in the build up to an event is not possible, because your mind is prepared for all that lies ahead and you know you cannot get out of it! This is helped by trying to look beyond the event or the challenge itself and imagining what it will be like to have done it. There has got to be something drawing you to the horizon and, if you know the event itself will be painful, the focus must be on its completion.

When you think back to competing, whether in the pool, track, field or triathlon, is it the pursuit of beating others that drives you or is the competition purely against yourself.

A mixture. Winning a race in a time that you know you could beat is frustrating. Chariots of Fire delivers the final word on this one (and so much else, of course). A livid Abrahams is telling his whimpering belle, Sybil, that he doesn’t run to take beatings, and articulates this with the outburst, “If I can’t win, I won’t run”. Quick as a whip, Sybil retorts, “If you don’t run, you can’t win”. Primarily, I will always compete with myself, but the presence of others enables me to take this further.

How do you motivate yourself to improve the areas of your fitness (or your weakest event) and how do you manage the development of those weaknesses without having a detrimental effect on other areas.

I have always found that the key motivator with fitness is the knowledge and belief that it makes things easier. Knowing that doing something over and over again makes you better at it is enough for me but an essential part of this is to be able to chart one’s progress. Taking note of where you start, and how you develop, is critical. Perversely, perhaps, I actually find it really interesting – especially if you can be vaguely scientific about it and work out how other factors such as diet, sleep and intervals play a part. In terms of maintaining fitness in all the areas required, I find it best to work on an area of weakness gradually, rather than devoting all one’s time to it. This is likely to ensure that you won’t fall away in the areas that you are already strong.

What are the best five tips you would give someone wanting to organise their own endurance event like running The Gloucestershire Way?

1. Whether or not it has been done before, check the practical feasibility of it very thoroughly. Think about what could go wrong and how you would be able to deal with it. Will you need support and who will provide it and how? Do you need any sorts of permission or are there agencies that must be notified? What will the ground and the conditions be like when the event comes – presumably you are planning it at a different time of year?

2. When considering what it is you want to do, make sure that you set an extremely clear goal. This makes planning much easier, as well as training. The main purpose of this is to keep yourself mentally focussed and active when the challenge is underway. Once you are tired and degraded, it is harder to remember why you are doing what you are doing but if you have a clearly defined end point, you will mitigate against other dispiriting factors. Aside from designing an event just because it seems like hard work, try to build a sense of enjoyment into it. This will turn it into something to look forward to and to enthuse about.

3. In the likelihood that the event or challenge is to be longer than any training period, take great care not to underestimate the requirement for sustenance and hydration. If you feel hungry or thirsty, it is already too late to do anything about it in the immediate term and you will suffer during the lag. Bear in mind that you will get cold very quickly when you stop, almost regardless of the weather, so take kit that will keep you warm and dry.

4. Do not become over-reliant on technology. Batteries run out and screens get smashed. There is no substitute for knowing exactly where you are on the ground and on a map. I would add listening to music here, which a lot of people do when they train. If you are on the go for a long time, it may not be practical to do this during your own event so it is worth getting used to listening to what is going on around you. After all, this makes you much more aware of your surroundings which, in turn, helps you to appreciate where you are. If you can do this, you have a much greater chance of enjoying yourself and this may even make you go faster!

5. Establish how you respond to training and, from that, work out what you think you need to do to realise your challenge. Be a little wary of training programmes written by other people as there is no guarantee that they will suit you. The risk of injury from over-training is greater than that from slightly under training. An endurance event, specifically, will require reserves and you will be able to tap into these even if you do not think that you are as well prepared as you had hoped. If you read the Gloucestershire Way text, you will see that I lost a lot of body weight despite eating a lot whilst en route.

Day 118
Miles today: 3.00
Miles completed: 354
Miles to go: 741

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