Mike and Ian go the extra mile for Sheffield Scanner
Following the achievement and dedication of our Big Walk 2017 participants, we heard from two inspirational colleagues who have been using their experience of endurance sports to boost our fundraising for Sheffield Scanner.
With every mile from remarkable people like these, we're closer to our goal of bringing the first first MRI-PET scanner to our region, which will help our researchers tackle devastating diseases.
Dr Mike Griffiths, Research Computing Manager in CiCS: A 110km ultra-marathon
Research Computing Manager for CiCS, Dr Mike Griffiths has successfully completed the 110km Ultimate Trails Challenge in the Lake District, raising over £400 for the Sheffield Scanner.
Widely billed as the most picturesque ultra-marathon in the UK, the Ultimate Trails route covers some of the Lake District’s most beautiful yet challenging terrain. Competitors must overcome six mountain passes, five lakes, and 14,000 ft ascent/descent.
Following a committed training programme, Dr Griffiths completed the route in an impressive time of 16:54:25, placing him at 47th overall and 4th in his age category.
Dr Griffiths’ sponsorship will support the Sheffield Scanner, our groundbreaking campaign to raise funds for the first MRI-PET scanner in Yorkshire. The scanner will transform understanding of serious conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease; cancer; epilepsy; heart and lung disease; Motor Neurone Disease (MND); Multiple Sclerosis; Parkinson’s disease and stroke, with the overall aim of improving outcomes for patients.
The advancement in medical treatment offered by the Sheffield Scanner is of professional as well as personal interest to Dr Griffiths — as part of his role in CiCS, he has worked extensively on our POLARIS project, developing imaging systems for pulmonary, lung and respiratory systems.
Since the date of the Ultimate Trails race coincided with the Big Walk, which Dr Griffiths had intended to enter, he decided to use his challenge to raise money for the groundbreaking cause.
Dr Griffiths said: “The Lakeland Ultimate Trail race was a beautiful route with a great mix of scenery and terrain. Because of the time of day, duration of the run, and the variation in height, running conditions were also quite varied. Comradery on the route was really good with people working as a teach to encourage one another.
“I managed to raise £405, and I’m so grateful for the donations and motivating comments from sponsors — it gives you an incredible boost. I can’t wait for the next ultra!”
Ian Wright, Deputy Director of Human Resources: A 24-mile open-water swim in just over 12 hours
On Thursday 22 June, our pioneering Deputy Director of Human Resources Ian completed a gruelling 24-mile swim in open water, to raise money for the Sheffield Scanner appeal. As at 28 June 2017, Ian had raised almost double what he set out to; his total being £1,092!
Ian finished in an incredible 12 hours, 47 mins 26 seconds. He told us how he got there.
How do you prepare for a challenge like this - when did you start training?
"I've been doing endurance events for the best part of 20 years so I guess there's an underlying understanding that big challenges are achievable with a bit of effort and focus.
"I found this 24-mile event online at Christmas and signed up then so that gave me six months to get ready.
"Over the past few years I've been increasing my swimming training and done some long distance swims as a result. But I find with swimming that as soon as you take a break, your swim fitness drops off so quickly. The first few swims after any length of break are like swimming through treacle!
"In terms of specific preparation I sought some coaching as my poor technique was causing shoulder injuries – I also got some physiotherapy to help address that.
"The mechanics of training are pretty simple (at least the way I do it is) – train for what you're going to do by practicing what you'll do in the event. So doing a long swimming event means lots of long swims in training. Obviously it needs to be built up over a period of time so I've been swimming four or five days a week with varying but generally increasing distances since January. Recently, I've been training outdoors to get familiar with the wetsuit and other elements such as sighting whilst swimming so I don't swim off course – there's no black line on the bottom to follow in a lake.
"It's also helpful to break down a big challenge into chunks that give you milestones in your training, and in the event itself, to help make it a bit more achievable. My longest swim in training was 10km, approximately a quarter of the total distance I swam on the event, so I mentally broke the event down into four sections each of around 10km in length. That made each block seem more achievable and I tried not to think about the next 10km block until I'd finished the previous one."
Could you describe the experience in your own words – is it quite peaceful out there during the swim? lonely? exhilarating?
"The event itself went really smoothly. The hardest bit was getting my head around the time out of the water between each mile. The time available to actually rest, eat and drink was really short by the time I'd exited the water, walked to the tent, picked up a coffee etc so before I knew it I was getting back up and to the water's edge to go again. Getting a good routine worked out helped that so I knew where I needed to be at every minute when out of the water. My support team (my wife and friend Richard Jones – from the University’s Finance team) were on hand to help with that. I made sure I ate in between each mile and had to have a wide variety of foods available to cope with the vagaries of my stomach throughout such a long event – at 4am after 10 miles of swimming I didn't know if I'd fancy Weetabix, jelly babies or a slice of pork pie.
"It was easier being in the water as it was simple focusing on what needed to be done.
"I was really pleased with how consistent I was throughout and how well I'd managed my body to keep going. After mile seven there wasn't really any doubt in my mind that I'd complete it. I was enjoying the swimming too much.
"In this event, the support of those helping was great too – everyone made things so easy in between swims so, as I said before, my biggest decision was what to eat and drink. All I really had to focus on was the swimming."
What were the challenges and how did you overcome them?
"I’m bloody-minded and that helps. As does the experience of the ups and downs of long distance events. Training helps too.
"With any endurance event there will inevitably be highs and lows. With experience I've come to accept this fact and to use it to my advantage. When I'm feeling low I know that the moment will pass in time and I'll be feeling much better in due course so there's less willingness to give up. Most of it is mental, and it's amazing how strong your mind is in enabling you to overcome these challenges.
"In hindsight I set off a bit too fast early on. The adrenaline was pumping on mile one so I completed that in 28 minutes and it felt easy, so I went back in for subsequent miles and tried to match that pace. Obviously my body was getting a bit more tired, the adrenaline was wearing off and my pace kept dropping, whilst the swimming felt harder and harder. By the end of mile seven, at about 1.30am, I was knackered. I really wondered if I'd be able to complete the event.
"But I got back in for mile eight and determined to take it easy to see how I felt. By relaxing my stroke and taking it easy mile eight felt much better. I ended up swimming it in almost exactly the same time as mile seven but with far less effort. After that I kept the swimming relaxed and my pace stayed pretty constant for the next five miles. It slowly dropped a little as the miles went by but remained respectable. My slowest mile was 34 mins 51 seconds at mile 22, and for the last two I sped up again. Only having one low point, and getting it out the way so early on when I was physically fresh enough get through it relatively easily, was great.
"When swimming I found myself between the really speedy folks who formed a group ahead of me and those focusing on a steadier strategy who spread out behind me. As a result, for most of the swimming I was on my own and able to enjoy the surroundings without worrying about clashing arms etc. I got to enjoy the aquatic life, of which there was much in the lake, the changing light as we went from daylight to night, and back through dawn to daylight again. The applause of the small group of dedicated supporters at the end of each mile was great; my team proved early on that long distance swimming of this kind is not much of a spectator sport though! Once I'd got my pace I found the swimming almost relaxing. You get into a rhythm and it really flows so actually the miles towards the end felt easier than those early on."
Would you do it again?
"Not sure I'd do it again. I don't think I could manage a better experience as everything went to plan and there are so many other challenges out there to have a go at.
"Total swim time for the 24 miles was 12 hours 47 mins 26 seconds!"
Did you know?
This swim is the latest in Ian's growing list of achievements in endurance sports! In 2015, Ian completed the Marathon des Sables, a 150 mile foot race through the Moroccan Sahara desert with temperatures of over 50 degrees!
Read about his experience under Athletics on our Rio 2016 In the Spotlight sports special: