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Steve's blog

Steve's blog

Words from the man himself. Read Steve's first-hand accounts from each day of the challenge plus blogs from the weeks building up to the start date.

 

                             click on the links below to read the blogs 

 

Training for the Engage Mutual Paris to London: Marathon Challenge, started 4 weeks ago. Scully and I met up with two friends from Bridgewater High School, Warrington. The school have supported the Foundation in the past and teachers, Keiron Powell and Alan Pinnington, are also fully qualified, top level Kayak Coaches – and they need to be!!!

They took us to Llanberis, a place that I know well from last year’s challenge. I did not know that Lakes had roundabouts in them until I first tried to paddle in a Sea Kayak. Scully, as usual took to kayaking straight away, but I kept going round in circles. The guys soon pointed me in the right direction and we spent four hours in the water receiving expert tuition.

The next time we met up with Keiron & Alan was at Sutton High Leisure Centre St Helens. This lesson was invaluable, Capsize Training. I am so thankful of this training; it has come to my rescue twice! Since my last column, we fitted in a much required training session. Due to the freezing weather conditions, this was problematical as all the lakes nearby were frozen. Alan took us to the River Dee near Chester. It was perishing (-1 degree). Kayaking or any outdoor activity is not good in freezing conditions, but this was ludicrous. After 4 hours of paddling, we decided to go for a break, a warm on the embankment. 2 yards from the side, yes you guessed it - I capsized!!! Cold was not the word, I was so pleased that this amused the guys, they were in fits of laughter. I’m glad I made their day! Martin (SPF Secretary) was distraught that he had not got this on film.

Well, I can now breathe a sigh of relief! The challenges for 2012 have now been announced and are in the public domain. The hard part is now done and now onto the easy task...Honest!

I would like to thank everyone who attended the launch at the Watersports Centre in Salford on Wednesday. Kayak Rugby Polo was aired on regional & Super League TV. It was a crazy launch that fitted the SPF perfectly. Once again... I capsized!!! This time as you will see, it was on film and yes it was very cold (see the image below). I am hoping that I have now got all capsizing out of my system; I will leave that to Scully from now on!

 

I cannot attempt these challenges without your support! I cannot put into words how much this support means to my family, SPF, Try Assist, The Christie and I. I want to inspire people to overcome adversity, show people that you cannot give in. What inspires me is incredible actions of generosity.

Last year a Hull artist, Rob Sutton, created a wonderful piece of Art that showed Hull FC & KR fans converging on the KC Stadium. The original painting was auctioned off and limited edition prints were raffled to fans of both clubs. I am pleased to say that this week the SPF received a cheque of £2,800 from Rob’s employer BP. This was match funding from his great work. The Foundation’s from both clubs also benefitted from his masterpiece.

How can I not attempt challenges when I receive this kind of support? Rob wants this money to go to the Paris to London Marathon Challenge, a great start to the fundraising, I’m sure you’ll agree!

capsized

How’s about this for support! On April 5th, Castleford Fan and long term supporter of the SPF, Mark Hudson is mirroring our challenge inside HM Armley where Mark is the Governor. Mark aims to enlist prisoners, wardens and a few RL celebrities to use the prison’s gym and complete the challenge in 24 hours! I never thought that I would be going “inside”. This is another avenue that charity work helps; it will break up the routine of the prisoners and hopefully inspire them to do better things when they have served their time. It is also to raise much needed funds for the challenge.

I am not embarrassed to ask for your support once again, Scully and I will be pushing our bodies through hell! If you could please donate £1 it will significantly help the SPF to help others! You can donate at www.justgiving.com/Steve-Scully or even use our free text service to donate between £1 and £10 by texting "PREK99" followed by the amount - for example PREK99 £5

 

 

 

 

I woke up last Thursday in a cold sweat! I realised that in four weeks time I will be kayaking across the English Channel. There are so many things going around in my mind! The thought of an oil tanker crashing straight into my kayak is not very amusing, the English Channel is the busiest sea freight crossing in the world! I just hope that our sea pilot is wide awake!!!

I can’t say my training has been going to plan lately. On Sunday 11th March, we staged the second GPW Legal Services St Helens 10k Run which was a huge success with over 1,300 runners taking part. I was always taking part and built the run into my training routine. Unfortunately in the lead up to the 10k I managed to tear my calf muscle, whilst running on the pitch with the kicking tee as the Saints under 20s beat a Huddersfield team 68-0.

This just goes to show that even when you are jogging ten yards or so it is important to warm up properly.  Unfortunately, I didn’t. I was running on with messages, in fits and starts and not giving my muscles enough time to keep warm. This caused me to have intense physio for a week and scuppered my chances of a good time for the 10k. I was advised that I could only walk the course so not to endanger this forthcoming challenge. This turned out to be a blessing as for once I was not competitive! I had a chance to savour the atmosphere, talk to the runners and some of the crowd and I enjoyed taking it all in. Having said that, next year I will still be hoping to break the 50 minute mark, which was what I had intended to do this year.

It doesn’t fill me with great confidence when I see the pain and torture that John Bishop has just gone through this week.

On that note, I would like to say big congratulations to the Liverpool comic on finishing his "Week from Hell". His challenge was very similar to the one Scully and I are attempting in April.
We have had our challenge planned for six months; it came as a great shock when we heard of Sport Relief's challenge, a pure coincidence. It is very interesting for the SPF to hear that John Bishop's attempt was nearly foiled by the French Authorities. We have been told that we could not cross the natural way from Calais to Dover; we have to go from Dover to Calais because of French Laws. However, the French allowed Sport Relief to cross the conventional way; I just hope we are treated with equality.

There are a few differences. We are running in two separate "competitive" marathons, Starting with the Paris Marathon and finishing the challenge with the Virgin London Marathon.  John ran 3 back to back marathons from Dover to London. We will be kayaking across the Channel single manned, whereas he crossed the Channel in a 6 manned rowing boat with powerhouse Freddie Flintoff and the lovely Denise Lewis and Davina McCall, by his side. Our support consists of Martin Blondel and Hughie Denning who will be in the support boat probably eating Magnum ice cream and no sense of direction; I think I should have been a comic instead of a Rugby League player! One other slight difference is, he has raised £1.6 Million, and I will be lucky to raise £16,000. Whatever we do raise, it will mean a lot to our beneficiaries.

Last Monday, in preparation for the Marathons, I ran my longest training run to date for this year’s Challenge. I once again caught the train to Liverpool and made my way back down the East Lancs Road back to St Helens. I added to the previous mileage and clocked up 17 miles. I was happy with that after the niggles I’ve been carrying over the past few weeks.

Because I have been struggling with pulled calves and inflamed patella tendons, we decided it would be a good idea to try and get a physio to travel with us, something we have never had in the past. After watching John Bishop’s ‘Week from Hell’ last week, we realised we usually do these challenges hard core, with the minimum of support. There will still be no massage tents on our challenge, but I am pleased to say that we have enlisted the services of a physio, Paul Head who will be in need of a rest after he has finished with me. Paul passed his degree in Sports Physiotherapy at UCLAN and was apparently top of his class. I think he will learn more in the 8 days than he did in four years studying.

Also training stepped up for the Channel crossing and Scully and I once again took to the waters last Tuesday. We finally met our guru, Ray Goodwin. Ray has 35 years of experience coaching people to Kayak. He was the first man to Kayak single-handed across the Irish Sea. On first impressions you would never think that he was in to any kind of physical exertions but impressions can be misleading, the knowledge and expertise he has passed on to Scully and I has been invaluable.

Ray has been upfront and honest with us. He has told us both that we are about 12 months short of Kayak experience to cross the channel! This, as you can imagine, has filled us both full of confidence! Never the less, he thinks our determination to win at all costs will get us through.....let’s hope so! I think that after the session, he was quite impressed with how we had picked things up and commented that he was now looking forward to the crossing and enjoying the fun! A lot will depend on the British weather. If it is calm, the odds will be in our favour, if it is choppy then the challenge will be in jeopardy.

Scully and I flew into Paris on Saturday morning and the support crew drove over the day before. We soon realised that the English Channel was not the only thing we have to brave on this trip. Trying to find our hotel in Paris soon got us used to danger! Martin (SPF Secretary) was driving, we drove past our intended Hotel and Scully shouted out ‘turn it round here’! Martin did as instructed, but it was turning on a tram line!!! The Royal Mail support van driven by John Parry followed us! As we tried to 3 point turn our way off the track, a tram was coming down the line and stopped just short of the Royal Mail van. Like I said, this has got us accustomed to risk!

We are very lucky that we have managed to attract fantastic corporate sponsors for this event. This helps with the costs of staging the challenge. The support that Engage give us, is priceless. They provide an excellent base for everyone to follow us, this is at the engagemutual.com/steveandscully web area.

At the moment we have raised more than £10,000 on www.justgiving.com/Steve-Scully. Every penny on that site will be equally divided between The Christie and Try Assist Fund….Please continue your support, it really does give us a lift when we see that total rise!

 

Day one - Sunday (Paris Marathon)

Yes my body is in bits and Paul has just filled up the bath with Ice. The ice bath is definitely one thing I do not miss from playing rugby.

Scully completed the marathon in 4 hours 20 min and I finished in 4 hour 25 minutes. We are really pleased with the times but personally I am a bit gutted that I missed my personal best by one minute.

The last six miles was hell! I had to use focus and will power, I was constantly thinking back to my rugby career, how we had to cope with pain. I was cramping up like mad, I just got passed the 26 mile marker and I had to stop - the cramps got too bad. I quickly stretched my hamstring knowing that there was only 300 yards to go, somehow I got to the finish!

Scully - the two time Man of Steel - is also in bits, but he is a machine. I am sure he will recuperate quicker than me.

On to Calais!!!  

Day two - Monday (cycle from Paris to Abbeville)

Woke up this morning, I could not put one foot in front of the other!

Hell, how am I going to get on the bike! Paul Head, our travelling sports therapist, received an early wake up call! After 40 minutes intense massage I managed to go downstairs for breakfast and plucked up enough courage to get myself on the bike!

I have never witnessed anything as dangerous as the Arc de Triomphe roundabout! You are literally taking your life in your own hands! It was a free for all, cars flying everywhere, cutting each other up!

My limbs were slowly starting to free up and we managed to have a small game of rugby before we set off on our 109 mile bike ride to Abbeville.

I knew this was going to be our hardest day physically, and I was not wrong! I just don’t know what drives me on! All I do know is that I think of all the people who have supported me through so much, how can I let them down!

The wind was directly in our faces throughout the day, all cyclists know that this is the worst conditions you can ride in! On top of the bad weather, the hills were relentless.

We were behind time, it took us so long to navigate our way out of Paris. The night was drawing in and with 15 miles to go, I really did think that I could not cycle any further. I felt I was going to keel over, but after a sugar boost, I managed to pull myself together.

We arrived at the hotel at 20.40. I was so exhausted that I could not join the others for dinner. This was a mistake as I ordered fish soup, to be delivered to my room. Scully was not impressed as he walked through the door. The smell was as horrendous as the taste.

Tomorrow they will have to carry me downstairs!!!

The bike ride tomorrow is only 77 miles, but bad weather is forecast. This could also disrupt our plans for kayaking across the Channel.

We will do everything in our power to cross the Channel. It has beaten me once but it will definitely not be 2 – 0.

Day three - Tuesday (cycle from Abbeville to Calais)

Today we finally left France! Now this seems a bit strange but we have to kayak from England to France - unless you are John Bishop and Sport Relief. The laws of the French say that you cannot leave the French shores in a unregistered craft. Sport Relief got special permission, this was granted with intervention from the government hierarchy.

Hopefully I will be stepping on to French Soil very soon. The weather has conspired against us. At the moment there is a Gale Force 8 Wind out in the Channel. This has affected the ferries, as we were delayed by 2 hours in crossing over to England. If it affects the large ferries you can imagine what it would do to a small kayak!

We did allow for bad weather in our itinerary. We do have contingency plans which will mean us bringing forward the cycling to London and looking at the weather forecast, I would suggest that we will be attempting the Channel crossing on Friday at the moment. This will be confirmed tomorrow morning. I can assure you that we will be doing everything in our power to complete this challenge!

We had a great start to today's cycling. This was from Abbeville to Calais. Unlike yesterday we had a kind wind, this was blowing directly behind us and for a small duration it took my mind off the pain in my knee. It was really sore and full of fluid. Paul Head the sports therapist is confident that I will be ok for Sunday's Virgin London Marathon run. I always say a challenge is not a challenge unless it is challenging, well this is certainly challenging on more than one front.

Day Four - Wednesday (a well earned rest day!)

The weather in Dover is horrendous but we are still optimistic of crossing the Channel - although we do need some devine intervention! It was always going to be the case that we had to put faith in mother nature.

Tomorrow (Thursday) we have planned to go and cycle to the Excel Centre in London, a short 77 miles cycle!

I'm not really looking forward to the first part of the cycle as it is a steep incline out of Dover.

We have spent today in long discussions with Michael Oram (the Sea Pilot) and the Harbour Authorities.

Then we had a trip in to Dover town centre for some food - Martin (SPF Secretary) literally did have a trip! We went into a restaurant and he somehow missed the chair and cracked his head on a serving counter. Now Martin is a bit on the rotund side. We were really worried that it was something serious but he managed to get himself together with only a headache and a giant bill off the restaurant for the crater that is now in the middle of the floor.

We are delighted with the publicity we have received and have in the pipeline. The BBC have agreed a prime time slot on Sunday in their London Marathon coverage. At 08.37am we will both be interviewed by Sue Barker and straight after we have to go from the Green start to the Blue start for an interview with John Inverdale on BBC Radio Five Live.

I like to think that we are not only raising awareness of the SPF, The Christie and the Try Assist fund, we are also managing to get Rugby League mentioned in the national media.

Please keep an eye on our twitter feed @StevePrescott1 throughout the day as we are likely to know the position on the Channel Crossing.

Day Five – Thursday (cycling from Dover to London)

It was a 75 mile day on the bike today; another early start where we were up at 5pm and on the road for 6. The weather was good and dry but it was pretty cold.

The hotel had kindly provided us with a pack-up for the journey with some fruit, drink, croissants and bacon sandwiches – although we never got to see the bacon sandwiches!! I’ve got an idea of who might have snaffled them!

The journey started with a tough 3 mile climb out of Dover harbour following the A2 which was a busy and dangerous stretch of road with lorries thundering past constantly. The support crew had to keep stopping at each junction further on so we were on our own out there and it was quite scary at times.

We did almost 20 or 30 miles before we stopped at the services as we realised that we hadn’t actually eaten anything and we’d been cycling on absolutely nothing due to the rush of getting out on the road. We made a start on the pack-up over a hot chocolate.

It wasn’t long after when Scully had his third puncture and Hughie was straight out of the support vehicle with the pump and his Irish charm. Hughie played to the camera as Martin filmed for part of the video blog and I took the mickey out of Scully as I still hadn’t had any tyre problems. I’d spoken too soon though as on the approach to London I had my first and only puncture. Still, it was 3 – 1 to Scully overall!

We arrived at our destination, the Excel Centre, absolutely drenched as the London rain came down. There we had to sign in for the marathon and collect our race number, our running chip (to go on your trainer) and log in our email address for when they send your official photos through.

The centre was massive and they really don’t miss a trick with so many people coming in for the marathon. You could see all the other runners getting caught up in the worry of  “have I done enough training, have I got enough energy bars, do I have the right clothing…?” and they were spending a fortune. Think we bought a London Marathon t-shirt and that was it. We weren’t interested in going round so we just went to the large pasta place where all the competitors were eating and then got in the car and drove back to Dover - back to the hotel.

When we got back we got changed and went and stood in the sea for 20 minutes using it as an ice bath – which was perfect cos it was absolutely freezing!

Day Six – Friday (no crossing today!)

We knew last night (Thursday) that the weather wasn’t going to allow us to cross today and kayaking was definitely out of the question. With a good chance of taking on the channel in a five-man rowing boat tomorrow (Saturday) we sent an SOS out to find another three individuals to fill the spaces. Three ex-Saints lads we used to play with answered the call and I can’t thank them enough. Chris Joynt, Bernard Dwyer and Steve Hall – your support it greatly appreciated!!

This morning we intended on having a lie-in but our body clocks were that used to getting up so early we woke up anyway. Me and Scully had another ice bath back in the sea and I used the time for Paul (our physio) to work on the fluid in my knees and carves. Ideally we’d have liked to have rowed today as it now adds pressure with having so much to do on the last two days. It's definitely focussed us further and prepared us to mentally dig in as we know its going to be really tough to do the Channel and then run the marathon the following day.

After a meeting with Michael Oram (Sea Captain) it was confirmed that he’d be bringing the boat down to the harbour at midnight ready for an early start in the morning as the weather forecast looks good enough to do the crossing.

With this news the wives drove down and were with us in the afternoon and the St Helens lads set off a bit later and joined us late after tea. They arrived at about 11pm and we stayed up to see them. We heard it was Bernard’s birthday so we got him a surprise cheesecake with a candle and sang happy birthday to him.

Day Seven – Saturday (the Channel crossing)

We were up at 4.30am to meet the boat and Sea Captain Michael for 5am intending to either set off straight away or at 6am. The hotel wasn’t far from the marina so we walked down and met Michael who was there with another team of rowers that were going out at the same time. The other team looked the part and arrived with their coach. We got chatting and heard they’d been training for 12 months! They asked us how long we’d been training and Bernard looked at his watch and replied “well, they gave me 12 hours notice and I’m here!” Their faces just dropped. They couldn’t believe we were attempting to row the Channel with no experience, no training… we hadn’t even seen the boat before…we didn’t even know how to work the oars! I was offering them Jelly Babies in exchange for sickness tablets – apparently you’re advised to take them hours before and we didn’t have them on our radar.

We got in to the boat and we didn’t know which way to sit or where to sit. Knowing that it was a five-man boat we all got in placing three of us down one side and two down the other – not realising that we’d end up going round in a circle! We didn’t know one of us had to be the cox! It really was ‘on the job’ training and we had to learn quick!

They pushed us away from the side and we started to row. Straight away, they were shouting at Chris from the side saying “turn your oar around!” as we carried on rowing and smashed straight into another boat! We were attempting to row the Channel and we couldn’t even get out of the marina! We just burst out laughing and said “how on earth are we going to do this?” Any way, we turned the boat around, concentrated on the job in hand and headed out to sea.

Out there the waves started hitting the boat and we wondered what we’d gotten ourselves in to. The boat we were in was designed to withstand up to gale force four conditions – and those were the conditions we faced once away from the coast. We had 10 foot waves to deal with at times! Passing through the first shipping lane was pretty scary stuff when you could see these huge ships heading for you. You’d think “are we going to get out of their way in time” but you just had to carry on rowing. We got into a good rhythm (I think!) and just cracked on.

In the boat it was near impossible to eat because when you stopped it made you feel really queasy so you were grabbing food, putting it in your mouth and then carrying on with the oar. As the hours were passing we knew we had to eat – our bodies needed the fuel – so we all stopped and tried to take on food and drink. I didn’t last long before I had to get back rowing because the up and down was doing me no favours. Just after we all set off again Chris shouted out twice “I’m going to be sick” before puking overboard. The other four of us just couldn’t stop laughing!

Basically we did 7.5 hours rowing on cereal bars because it was the only thing we could get into us – certainly not great preparation for a marathon tomorrow!

It was that choppy; we had a support boat with us the whole way which included friends and family but they didn’t speak to us for about 3 hours because they were all being sick! I shouted over to them “you’re a great help! What a ‘support’ crew!”

At one point it got really bad, the clouds came in, it got really dark and the waves seemed bigger. The support crew shouted that we had 6 miles left to go. An hour passed and the French coast just didn’t seem to be getting any closer. We shouted at the support boat to see how far now and they shouted back “6 miles”. We hadn’t gone anywhere for an hour!! Couldn’t believe it.

Scully was at the front of the boat and I remember him turning round to see if we were getting any closer. Ha! Bernard told him to stop looking and get on with his rowing. There was a point where we could have got frustrated with each other as your back and knees were hurting, crouching in that same position for so long. We just had to keep plugging on; it wasn’t going to beat us!

The elation when we finished was great – handshakes everywhere! We couldn’t believe that five rugby lads from St Helens had just done what they’d done.

We got into the support boat – which was an open rib - and the pilot floored it all the way back to Dover bouncing off every wave on the way and absolutely drenching us in the process. The journey back highlighted the distance we had rowed and what we had achieved that day.

When we got back to the hotel in Dover I was absolutely exhausted. It was late afternoon and I ordered some food but fell asleep before it arrived. The waiter actually had to wake me up. We then got packed up and headed back to London arriving at the hotel at about 9.30pm. Whilst checking-in I was struggling with some sort of motion sickness; everything was swaying – it was like being on a suspension bridge, the floor was constantly moving side to side. It wasn’t good.

Me and Scully knew we had to eat with the marathon ahead in the morning. We forced a load of chicken down and Scully was straight to bed. It had been a long day! I stayed up and had some much needed physio on my knees and calves.