Steven Barlow – 2012 World Coal Carrying Championships

Steven BarlowHello, my name is Steven Barlow and here is my blog about my experience of participating in the 49Th The World Coal Carrying Championships in Gawthorpe West Yorkshire. This is just a brief snippet of the blog but you cna read my blow by blow account on my website.

Preparation for the race started some weeks back and as is with these things did not get off to the best of starts. With a large part of 2011 being spent involved with a lot of rehabilitation work my foundation training was not at its best. To add insult to injury three weeks prior to competing in my first half marathon I pulled up with issues around the back of my knee which meant next to no training done before the half marathon and then over a week to recover from the excessive soreness before coal sack training could commence far later than I’d intended.

For this years event we completely revamped my training with a “boom or bust” approach. If it worked I would reach the two goals I’d set after last years race. If it didn’t I would either loose time or not complete the course at all. The pressure weighed heavily. What was in my favour this year compared tot he previous two years was the number of races I’d managed to get in in 2011 which helped dramatically improve my cardiovascular fitness and awareness of how far I could push myself. A great confidence booster.

Another product I started to experiment with this year was Xendurance a magnesium based supplement which helps on a number of fronts. Nothing worse than your legs over pumping with blood and throwing your whole mechanics out when your trying to squeeze the last bits out of a set. Bad mechanics equal bad habits and injury. Looking forward to using this supplement throughout the rest of year and pushing the makers claims to its limits. I’m in a unique position of doing numerous races at very different intensities and distances so this will help to put the cat amongst the pigeons as they say and give  me very detailed feedback on its effectiveness especially in the shorter sprint events as a lot of people that I see using this product seem to be more involved with the longer distance events of marathons, triathlons and Ironman events. So with the rest of my race season fixed around doing a number of events in the UK Spartan Race calendar it’ll be a great test of the product.

The final addition I’d like to introduce readers to is the POWERbreathe Inspiratory muscle trainer a training device that has a number of uses. For me personally I’m a lousy breather when I run always sucking in air from the chest upwards. The POWERbreathe helps you to training and strengthen the muscles we use to breath which help not only with training but you will find that in everyday life the better your breathing the more overall energy and vigor you have. A very worthwhile training tool and one I found of benefit in this years coal race because I could feel my breathing was a lot deeper and I wasn’t constantly hyperventilating because of bad breathing mechanics. Again this device will be at the cornerstone of my training for my Spartan races because of the way the body is tested not only over various distances but by the simple fact that your body is twisted and turned in all manner of ways which make breathing very difficult.

Right back to the nitty gritty of the day. Talk about nerves. The plan was to have an early breakfast and follow that up with a carbohydrate and protein shake to sip on as need be. Not a chance. Never experienced stomach butterflies like I did all the way to the starting line. There was no way anything was going down because I knew it would be coming straight back up. I was scheduled to run in the first of the men’s races so had plenty of time to pick up my race t-shirt, number and try to settle down a little as we watched the kids races unfold.

The coal truck pulled up and we went and collected our coal sacks off the back. Oh boy this got worse then. The sack was too heavy on one side and the coal had collected into one solid mass. No amount of jumping up and down like a lunatic would break it up. And to top it off there was no give in the sacks themselves. They were brand new which left the edges quite sharp and made gripping very difficult. There was no way the sack was going to sit anywhere near on my shoulders like the sack I’d used for training. Misery set in even further.

Ready, steady GO!!!!! and we were off. Surprise surprise I set off faster than I expected, the cloud of doom and gloom started to lift as I realised I wasn’t seeing a sea of feet surge past me. 50 meters in and I was still there. 100 meters in and shock, horror I was hanging onto third place. Wonders would never cease.

Whether you finished in first or last you can hold your head high knowing you’ve been through hell and back doing quite possibly the hardest, shortest distance race this country has to offer all in the name of tradition and having a right good laugh whilst your at it because lets face it its not fun but its a dam good laugh afterwards.

Here is a video of my performance.  I come into view around the 40 second mark wearing the black running compression tights.



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