Friday, 9 October 2015

Of Being on Top of the World

We did our annual pilgrimage up Slieve Donard on Wednesday of this week to see the place where Papa proposed to Mama on the top of a mountain almost three years ago in a howling gale and in the dead of night.
It was a beautiful autumnal day. The flowers and fauna on the walk up to the summit added even more colour to a day exploding with beauty and vitality.
Alicia was wonderful. She seemed to enjoy her transport to the top on a rucksack strapped to Papa's back. She never cried once but burst into song on a good number of occasions and happily popped into her mouth the wild blackberries that Papa passed up to her en route.
On days like this its easy to feel on top of the world in a life that is difficult to top too..

Legal-Island Full Out Flat Out

It’s all about everything at the moment at Legal-Island. We’re just flat out wherever you look. Our portal people are furiously at it. Our email service team have barely time to look away from their screens and our events team well it’s their busiest time of the year; “The silly season” as it is sometime referred to when we attempt to do five of our biggest events in as many weeks when hundreds of our customers come through the conference doors for what we think is the best HR show in town.

Our E-learning team is chomping at the bit too. We were much cheered this morning by surveying findings that indicate compliance training online is up this year and by a considerable percentage too. This should not come as a surprise for there are many advantages to e-learning over conventional classroom based training. These include ease of administration, cost and user convenience to name but a few.

Our own modules cover child protection or safeguarding for Northern Ireland and equality and diversity in the work place. We’ve modules for other disciplines due out soon.

Friday, 2 October 2015

Of One Extraordinary day in the life of a retired Ironman

 An occasion rarely comes that big that the day before you just know you’ll always remember it. Into my bank of memories along with births, weddings, landmark birthdays, graduations and funerals I’ve had to add my first (and last) Ironman.

Ironman day started for me at 4.30a.m. for I had to eat at least two hours before the start of the race which was a good hour’s drive from where we were staying in France.
The race didn’t start well for me. I found myself just where I didn’t want to be for the swim : at the front and in the middle. I spent the first 30 minutes or so avoiding slaps, kicks and generally trying not to drown. But the swim achieved its objective which was to beat the disqualification time and make it to the bike. This was waiting for me in transition meticulously prepped to get me around the next 112 miles. It had to carry me and enough gear for me to eat and drink over the next 7 hours and cope with any Plan Bs I might need to activate in the event of something going wrong.

But nothing did go wrong. There were no crashes, no punctures just an awful lot of pedaling and sweat in the midday heat that hit and stayed at 35 degrees for far too long.

The 26.2 miles run was tough. But I knew it would be. What was uppermost in my mind was just how much risk I should take. I felt good in the run but I was passing people who were collapsing and getting carted off to hospital. My wife and 1 year old daughter were waiting nervously at the finish line for me. Why take unnecessary risk by running further than you have to when you don’t know exactly how much you have left in the tank? In the event I ran a bit and walked a bit and approached the finish at about 10.30p.m.

An Ironman finish is an extraordinary thing. You enter the purpose build stadium which belongs to you and no-one else. There you see hundreds of people all cheering for you, trying to high five you or just enjoying making you feel special.

As I crossed the finish the finish the commentator said “Congratulations! Barry Phillips you are an Ironman!

I thought to myself “Thanks I’m a retired one to” and went to collect my medal and a long cool drink.

Monday, 7 September 2015

Of Ironman Vichy Frnace 2015

Yey! I did it! In 15 and a half hours I got myself from start to finish. I've fully recovered but the wife and mother still have some way to go!

More to follow soon.

Friday, 28 August 2015

Of Strategy, Strategy, Strategy

I think an adviser to Tony Blair once said "It aint strategy until its written down" I've been going through my race strategy for tomorrow. So here it is written down for all to see.


Keep well away from the serious contenders. Start off at the back and avoid congestion spots. What I don't want is to end up in a medley of elbows, knees and feet and risk getting my head bashed. When half way and feeling comfortable start to gather some speed. In training I did the full distance a full 30 minutes inside the disqualification time so I should be okay here.

I need to keep reminding myself to swim intelligently. I need to glide through the water as much as power my way through. I will time my watch to sound every thirty minutes so I'll know roughly whether I'm where I should be a regular intervals.

Transition to bike - gargle and drink lots of water to get rid of the sea salt in my mouth and throat. Load up with energy gels and drinks and head off at a steady pace


Drink before I feel thirsty and take in energy gels - at least 3 each hour. Keep pace steady and conserve as much energy as possible for the run. During the last hour on the bike I need to eat as much as a can before the run. I've realised I can't hold down any food to speak of whilst running so all my eating for the run needs to be done on the bike.

With two miles to go I drop my gears to have my legs rotating around as much as possible to get them ready for walking/running again.

Transition to run -walk  really slowly as the legs get used to forward motion rather than just turning around and around.


This is when the whole event starts getting really serious. I'm expecting that at this point whether or not I conquer the race is down to what's in my head. I've been practicing the mind over matter bit extensively. See here 

My plan is to go for the fist 13 miles by running them without stopping. If I can take out half the marathon running I should be able to do the rest on foot.

I'm just hoping the weather is not too hot because  Mr. BP has never functioned well in heat. Ask any of my friends who have had to put up with an irritable Barry Phillips when the thermometer has hit more than 25 degrees.

Oh and to donate please click  here 

Thursday, 27 August 2015

Of Reasons Why I WILL do This

Okay so here we are at T-Minus 3 and I'm beginning to doubt myself. I need to start thinking positively only. Let me try.

I will do this on Sunday because :

# I have trained for it (bar the last two weeks of injury)
# I have done all the prep and the gear is where it should be - with me!
# I've practiced the mental stuff and this will really help this wise old head get round on Sunday
# The diet has been excellent. No rubbish, loads of great vegetables and healthy fluids  - most of it organic.

I will do this. Repeat. I will do this.

To donate please click here

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Guest Blogger Barry the Younger

Hello Folks 

My name is Barry Corscaden.
I’m guest blogging for Barry because he's busy today flying out to France to get himself "in situ" for his own little "grand prix" (note the timely and clever use of French words there please..) on Sunday

– I don’t know the collective word for a pair of Barrys but I do know never to trust a Barrie !!

Barry the barrister (as we refer to him in our house) and I have been chums for best part 12-13 years now. We used to jog the walls of the maiden city (often deftly and cheerfully chatting whilst  dodging stones thrown playfully by japing youths !!) I remember when the kernel of the of what would become his company occurred  to him and true to his character – once interested in a thing – Barry decided to master it and promptly took on an online MBA while setting up a very demanding and complex business – years of 80 hour weeks passed and Barry built his biz into what its become now – proof,  if it was needed – of the old maxim of the formula of success being 1% inspiration and 99 % perspiration.

Barry didn’t think twice when I invited him hill walking in Austria a few years ago and likewise when he invited me to paddle a canoe form Antrim to Castlerock one May day weekend – I agreed without hesitation. When Barry told me he was going in for an Ironman competition – I didn’t doubt for a moment that he would achieve this – that’s what Barry does – he sets his mind and body to a task and he finishes it. He told me recently of his exhausting morning swimming regime he needed to do to prepare for the three mile swim he faces next weekend.  I was staggered when he told me that he and his fellow competitors are then going to saddle up and cycle a farther 112 miles and then , oh yes , the small matter of a marathon to run!

I can’t imagine the dedication and sacrifice of family time needed to make this possible but I do know that if anyone can Barry can. Cancer is a cruel blight on the lives of our selves and our loved ones – I was glad to see they were to be the beneficiaries of his noble endeavors. Good on you Bazza and may god speed go with you .

To donate and please donate he'll be so chuffed if you do I dare say he'll write and thank you personally as soon as he's recovered click here :

Barry Corscaden  

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Of Ironman and T-Minus 5 days to go..

Okay so we're at T-Minus 5 today before the Ironman on Sunday and I have to confess to a few butterflies already. However, I'm trying to work in some positives wherever I can.
I read a book on public speaking once and it gave me some very good advice I'm trying to apply here. It recommended that before a speech you should visualise any butterflies inside you lining up side by side. It said you should see this flotilla of beautiful creatures as your friends and on your side. Visualise them moving forward with you in harmony.The author pointed out that butterflies are also a sign that you are paying sufficient respect to the event you are about to face.
Butterflies it is then. All side-by-side, lining up nicely each and every single one of them!

To donate to my chosen charity please no butterflies just click here  Thank you!

Of Preparation, Preparation, Preparation

I learnt one really important thing when in Majorca earlier this year doing the Half Ironman and it was this. Many people don't finish events such as this because they didn't have a Plan B or, if they did, it just wasn't good enough to get them over the finish line.
If your goggles break in the swim, if you get a puncture on the bike or your muscles cramp in the run you have to have a well practiced Plan B ready to deploy right away. If you do have a Plan B and it is well practiced the transition from what was going well over the humped back bridge to your new path should be smooth enough.

Last night whilst preparing all the gear I worked out I have 8 Plan Bs in place only four of which have been practiced thus far so the remainder must be covered off before the big day on Sunday. I've realised too that I have a few Plan Cs just in case disaster strikes on Sunday and I end up really having to fight off a whole load of bad luck.

Happily donations are beginning to come in to the sponsorship fund so thank you to all who have generously contributed so far :

Just Giving

Thursday, 20 August 2015

Of No Chance Second Chance

It was all going so well and then... disaster struck. I strained my knee whilst on the gym bike doing a 2 hour sprint. I hopped off and across the gym and gingerly got myself home wondering what to do now.

The dilemma is this.

I need to do more training on the bike. Without it I could struggle to cycle the full 112 miles on the big day.The farthest I've ever cycled to date is 60 miles in one go and this is just not enough to allow my mind or legs to feel that they've conquered that sort of distance in the past.
If I get back training too quickly I could aggravate the injury and make even starting the race impossible. And yes that is a disaster for I know Vichy, France on 30th August is my one and only chance of bagging an Ironman. Yes there will be other events in the future but I'll have neither the will nor the time to train for them. It's bon voyage boom or bust.There is no second chance.

Oh and to donate please click  here 

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Of Ironman Training - Now for the Mental Stuff

You might say I started training for my first and last Ironman, some eighteen months ago.
This week, for the first time I believed I'm actually capable of doing the Ironman next month in France after something quite extraordinary happened.
For almost six months I have tried to run 6.5  miles in under 60 minutes. For a good part of this I was clocking 70+ minutes and until yesterday my personal best (PB) was 63 minutes and so many seconds. Yesterday, I developed a new mindfulness technique and came in in 57 minutes 30 seconds on the nose. That's a 10% improvement in just 1 attempt. I did so by employing what may be considered to be a rather curious cocktail of mental activities combining goal setting with yoga earth and mindfulness together with some Pac-Man nostalgia and mantras, laced in with a dose of fun from my favourite war film, 633 Squadron. Here's what it looked like.

En route I chose landmarks ahead of me on which to focus with me looking directly ahead to help maintain good running posture and breathing. The landmarks included such things as big oak trees, railway bridges and farmers’ gates. It didn’t really matter. When I got to each landmark I thanked it for its help and, commensurate with the respect I showed it for it's role in the countryside, its longevity or both, I imagined it recharging me with whatever spare energy it had to share.

I wasn’t running alone but as part of a team. Also in the team were Legs, Arms, Head and Mouth.

For the first landmark it was the duty of Legs to give a little bit extra to get me there. For the second it was Arms and the third Head and Mouth. For the fourth it was a whole team effort which always felt great. This cycle was simply repeated as I went round the course from landmark to landmark.

Good communication between each team member was treated as vital just as it was in any wartime flying squadron.  Head and Mouth as Leader would call on each when its special contribution was required reminding the next team member to stand by and be ready to take over. Communication back and forth was not only permitted but encouraged. Legs would report in to "Blue Leader" that all was well and remind Arms (Yellow Section) that they should be grateful that they didn’t have the hilly bit to do which was now over at least until another lap. Occasionally, Head and Mouth would repeat for all team members “Keep Going Lads” if it suspected a team player was slacking or even contemplating stopping.

If at any point I lapsed into thinking about challenges at work or any other unhelpful distractions Blue Leader in the lead Spitfire would be called in to blast them from the sky (da da da da da da da da da da da). My God they were good.

As I neared the end of the run, Legs were reporting that the props were now full out but they could cope. Arms were announcing they now had kettle bells out for forward drive and feathers for backward motion whilst Head and Mouth promised to remain up straight and blow out only air, not spittle and certainly no false teeth.

Altogether, a very strange but strangely effective piece of training....

Sunday, 26 July 2015

Of Why You Should Never Strike Up a Conversation with an Ironman

My training for next month's Ironman race was going okay until I met some Ironman last week. They assured me my training wasn't anywhere like good enough and I had to up the anti big time. Between them they're veterans of at least 10 races so I guess they should know. So for this next week, (which is just four weeks to go btw until the big day) my training regime is as follows :

Monday : 150 length swim + Fast run of 7 miles
Tuesday : Spin class & 3 mile + 68 miles bike
Wednesday : Gym work legs + Fast run 7 miles
Thursday : 150 lengths swim + 17 mile bike & 3 mile run
Friday : Gym legs & 3 mile run + 16 mile run
Saturday : Rest Day

Rest day, incidentally, is the day I'll have to do all the things I didn't do in the week because I was training like mow the lawn, wash the car, tend to the garden and shop.Shop til you drop. Isn't that what they say?

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Of Stretching it All Just a Bit Too Far

There's a lot of people worried at the moment. My wife is worried. My Mum is worried. Friends are worried. Now it's the turn of my physio.
I went to see him last week about my aching carves. He said unless I stretch them at least 5 times a day he doesn't see me completing the Ironman in August. He could be wrong but my experience in Mallorca suggests he's not. In Mallorca half way round the run I could feel the back of my legs beginning to seize up. By the time I got to the line I wasn't far off being in complete agony.
So now into the training schedule which includes already an awful lot of swimming, cycling, running, shopping for good food and preparing it well I must add 5 daily stretch exercises.

Just when you think you can't pack anything more into your day you have to try to stretch it just one bit farther.

Now I'm beginning to worry.

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Of Ironman 70.3 in Mallorca

And so it came to be that on 2nd May after 7 hours+ in the searing heat of Mallorca I crossed the finish line of the Ironman 70.3!
The race had started well enough with my completing the 1.9km swim in just over 40 minutes. Don't make the mistake of thinking this is fast however for the Pros did it in just 20 minutes!
Yes there was 3,500 in the water but the start time was staggered so the elbowing, kicking and re-directing of fellow competitors was kept to a minimum.
The bike race was hard. Very hard. It included a 15 mile ascent up a mountain side but I knew if I could crack this I could crack the distance too - not only of the cycle component but the whole race.
One consequence of ascending a mountain in 30 degree heat is that you have to drink a huge amount of fluids and this means a lot of toilet stops. Many of these stops were in portaloos along the route but by no means all. Secluded large walls fronting farmers fields did their bit to help out as did a family in a tiny village 3km from the cycle finish line who kindly granted access to their facilities to some strange guy who appeared on their doorstep in his cycling lycra looking very uncomfortable and speaking wobbly Spanish!

The run was all about getting to the finish without collapsing in the heat. There was loads of roadside assistance from officials handing out energy bars and drinks to kids handing you sponges to soak yourself with as much water as you could.

I loved this day. It was truly great.

Before the race I came across a quote in the official race programme by the co-founder of the Ironman competition and it's stayed with me since :

"You may quit an Ironman race and no one will care at all. But you will know for the rest of your life!"

Thursday, 30 April 2015

Of Ironman 70.30 - The Run in

I have just 9 days left before the Ironman 70.30. I'd like to say that I feel fully prepared but I don't. Due to a foot injury I've not been jogging in 8 weeks. Recently, the weather has been so awful that the only cycling I've been doing is an hour in the garage each day on the exercise bike. The swimming brings more cheerful news however. I've been doing a minimum of 50 lengths each day over the last 8 weeks doing 75 and 150 lengths at least once a week too.
I've learnt a huge amount talking to people in advance of the race. An Ironman told me this morning that I should keep a log book for my trainers and as soon as I clock over 100 hours I ditch them and get a new pair. He's never had a pair for more than 6 months. My trainers I bought at least two years ago. My physio advised me that I'm flat footed and need insole (two are in the post at £60 a pop!). My doctor was very diplomatic saying that most people our age do moderate exercise to keep things ticking over nicely.

Recently in my mind I've been going through my race strategy and at the moment it looks like this :


Keep well away from the serious contenders, Start off at the back and avoid congestion spots. What I don't want is to end up in a medley of elbows, knees and feet and risk getting my head bashed. When half way and feeling comfortable start to gather some speed.

Transition to bike - gargle and drink lots of water to get rid of the sea salt in my mouth and throat. Load up with energy gels and drinks and head off at a steady pace


Drink before I feel thirsty and take in energy gels - at least 3 each hour. Keep pace steady and conserve as much energy as possible for the run

Transition to run -walk  really slowly as the legs get used to forward motion rather than just turning around and around.


Avoid a fast early pace which apparently accounts for most people who fail to complete the course. Try to run at all times and not fall into a walk.

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Of Dipping Your Toe into Training

Now, I have just over 8 weeks to go to the Ironman 70.20 in Majorca.
I would like to state that the training is going well and is on schedule but that wouldn't be true. You see about a month ago I erected a baby gate at the top of the stairs. The following day I forgot it was there, fell clean over it and down the stairs. The injured toe was in agony and still isn't right. Anna laughed that I didn't look at that moment much like a potential Ironman and as I cursed my toe at the bottom of the stairs and I guessed she was right.

So for the last fours weeks all I have been doing is swimming. This is improving however and significantly. To improve my style and speed courtesy of a lot of Youtube videos I've learnt the following is important to do and keep doing :

# kick from your hips, relax your legs and point your toes. This instruction still feels counter intuitive. Physiologically I can't believe that it is possible to point your toes whilst relaxing your legs so at the moment I'm settling for the former in the belief that it's more important than the latter. The kick from the hips bit I do get and it does make a big difference.
# pull hard through the second part of the stroke underwater and continue pulling until your hand exits the water past your hips. This I've decided is where the power and momentum is. Get this right and your velocity increases big time.
# hand shape must be exactly right for the best pull. I'm still working on this but the angle of the hand whilst underwater is clearly critical and I need to give this some more Google and wet time.

For the past month I've been up to 50 lengths each working day doing 100 lengths on one of them only. 75 lengths is the distance for the Ironman 70.20 swim and half the distance of the full race.

I need to get on my bike and back in my jogging shoes and plan to do just this as soon as my toe morphs from black to white through the 50 shades in between and lets me walk again properly.

Monday, 12 January 2015

Of A Truly Memorable New Year's Eve

Christmas and New Year 2014 was great. Really great. It was full of special memories of family, fun, food and an awful lot of travelling.

We spent New Year's Eve in a Russian dacha or, if you're not familiar with this term, a lovely log cabin in a small village about 4 hours drive from Moscow. Thankfully we took the train and what a journey that proved to be (a story for another blog occasion be assured).

The evening was special because some dozen or more of Anna's relatives came together and put on a night of fun and feasting that make a good New Year celebration truly great. Although everyone contributed to the evening for me it clearly belonged to a fine lady who left me with a very special memory I'll treasure for a long, long time.

Anna's babushka or, if you prefer, Alicia's great babushka, sat at the head of the table. Although late in years she sat very upright, gait quite perfect, almost majestic. She talked slowly, deliberately, gently and quite beautifully.

Sat next to her was a man who understands opportunity when it comes knocking and surrounded by relatives good in both Russian and English I slowly began to probe and open up a wonderful personal history that confirmed my view that I was in the presence of a very special lady who had some stories to tell.

She told me that her mum was a member of the communist party aged just 15 and "took an active part in the Revolution". She said she remembered when she first heard that their leader was a man called Stalin and how they thought he was a man "next to God". She explained how she and others laboured hard in the fields because they wanted to serve him well. I asked her if she remembered the day Russia declared war with Germany and she replied of course she did. She said she remembered it well "we cried all day long because we knew so many Russians were going die" she added, her face looking disturbed and stressed.

As we headed towards the latter part of my interview I wanted to lead her into more positive memories in the hope she'd finish feeling good about my gentle inquisition so I asked her when she first met her husband. Before I did so I looked at her and I couldn't help but think of the Titanic movie where a once youthful lady recounts her life story at the beginning and end of a film. The lady in front of me smiled gently through a face that though now "a carefully written page" was still very beautiful.

She told me she had met her husband at a college dance and the attraction had been immediate - a statement confirmed by the fact they were married within six months. When I asked if it was love at first sight she merely replied "we both knew". I couldn't help but think about the happenstance around it all which scared me terribly. What if either of them hadn't turned up at that dance? Might there have been no him, no Tatiana and no wife and certainly no daughter?

She explained they had both worked for the first three months in one place before being posted to another much farther away. She worked on environmental matters and he in agriculture. For a good period of their early marriage he was away mapping a huge forest returning only for the weekends. But he was a family man and lived for his wife and children.

By the end of the ending everyone but she and I had peeled away and gone to bed. I thanked her for sharing her world and tremendous personal history with me and others. I hugged her and struggled to let her go.