Monday, 25 January 2010

Getting back to normal...

I’ve been a bit lost for what to write over the last few weeks, I think the mammoth effort for the decade review zapped what writing powers I had. Even this week I don’t really have a focussed topic to express my views on, so I think it will merely be a collection of some of my recent thoughts.

It has been a long time since I have seen so much snow that lasted for so long. Our school remained open so any thoughts of sledging or additional family time soon evaporated. Whilst in some cases school closures are sensible, if the heating fails or if the roads become dangerous, most schools seem to have stayed shut for much longer than was necessary, mainly I think because staff just didn’t travel to work. Anyway the start of the football season was delayed, instead replaced with some great running sessions usually finished off with an organised snowball fight, or paintball type invading game where your ammunition was the snowball, all good fun.

Ellie and I built a huge snowman, complete with left over Christmas sprouts for its eyes, nose and buttons. I also managed to build a proper igloo, something I was always unable to do as a kid. It was beauty, sitting inside drinking a coffee I thought about the Inuit people who live in them in their snow and ice covered landscape, could be quite cosy, but a way of life, guess you’d get used to it. We had a great BBQ and fire in the snow one afternoon with friends, an interesting experience.

My training has been affected by the weather, but more so by a knee injury. I have been getting some medial knee pain on the boney protrusion, only during running and usually as the run progresses. I have seen Ove the Physio and have established that 2 years of long training, recent running races, and a months emphasis on heavy leg weights has tightened my ITB, Hip Flexors, Glutes and Lower Back to a point of no return. Plenty of pain from Ove and Mark coupled with lots and lots of stretching seems to be doing the trick. I have run a few times for 30 minutes without pain and hope to have made some progress. The shame for me was being unable to ride my bike, I was really looking forward to some great off road running in the snow, unfortunately apart from a couple of runs I couldn’t venture out in the white stuff, I also had to bail out of the Brass Monkey Half Marathon. It is incredible how tight my lower back and hip area has become, mainly due to the commuting on my bike and a lack of decent stretching, it is now an area I have to focus on using some good stretches and the Trigger Point Roller and Ball, bloody painful process though….

I did dust off my mountain bike and rode that over the compacted snow to work, I think I got some pretty decent work outs from this ride, short but hard work. I am back to normal with my riding now and I am feeling pretty bike fit. I rode strongly for 50 miles on Saturday feeling good in the latter stages of the ride. I am looking forward to some longer rides with various training buddies, but know the real key to my cycling goals is to up the intensity in the form of intervals and race specific sessions. With no Ironman race this year, I don’t need to execute 4 or 5 hour rides, but if I want to be fast in the TT’s and Half Ironman races then my riding must be more painful!!!

We all went bowling this weekend. It proved to be a good family activity. At the moment the girls are not quite old enough to do too many things independently, that time will come when I become more of a taxi service taking them to sports, music, friends, etc, etc for now it is great to get out as a family. The trick is finding activities and places to visit that are of interest to Ellie and Evie and to Sarah and I. we have some great parks and forest areas that we like to visit when the weather is a little kinder, but winter becomes a bit more of a challenge. Evie is not quite old enough for a visit to the cinema, (and of course their needs to be an appropriate kids film to watch) The phenomena that is the ‘indoor play centre’ is used so regularly for kids parties that we tend to stay away on the weekend. I think we have found a nice alternative in Bowling. Both Ellie and Evie enjoyed themselves, and Sarah and I also had fun. We did have the gutter guards in place, but I bowled straight never needing them (unlike my wife) and scored 156; one of my highest ever bowling scores.

Evie appears to be becoming a bit more settled at night time. She is great at going to sleep, and touch wood is spending more full nights in her bed, sleeping straight through. If she does wake she comes through to our room and stands at my side of the bed. She is quickly dispatched back to her bedroom, but the damage has been done and both mine and Sarah’s sleep disrupted. Although she is still totally unpredictable, it make no difference if she has had lots of food or no food, an afternoon sleep or no sleep, medicine or no medicine, a late night or an early night, there is just no pattern, she does appear to be improving, the little monkey. She has nearly mastered the ‘Big Boy’s Toilet’ as she calls it, it is very funny when she announces that she needs a wee, or when she comes running back into the room pleased as punch that she has done a poo, daughter number two out of nappies…

After battling with Orange Broadband for the last few months we are now finally connected to O2. We have a much faster line speed, no longer having to leave the Itunes album download running through the night. The problem we now have is our pretty basic two year old laptop computer is misbehaving. I sense our patience is rapidly running out and that a visit to PC World is not that far away. We have a few more options to try…..

I have been following Epic Camp New Zealand with envy and admiration for the volume of training that the boys and girls did. I think some Short Epic Camps (is that possible) are on the agenda this season, could be a great way to get some solid blocks of training in with some training pals.

Sarah is working really hard at the moment. Her music tuition is going well, she is up to her capacity without working more evenings, and her students are as always having lots of success achieving their grades in the theory and practical exams, she is getting plenty of repair enquiries and is developing the Wind Instrument teaching at my school. All this in addition to taking Ellie backwards and forwards to school, Evie all over the place to various Nurseries and when Evie is at home dealing with a 2 ½ year old with energy in abundance. Sometimes I wish I had a job where a single income would allow us to live the lifestyle we have chosen, and allow Sarah time to look after Evie, keep on top of house stuff and enjoy her free time doing more of the things she likes to do. But I know she wouldn’t want it this way, and I have yet to see many examples where a single income family spends as much time together as we manage to do. We have various friends and family members where a single large income means very early morning commutes to work and late night returns, regular midweek over night stays and work issues to be considered on a weekend, plenty of money, no quality time to spend it is such a true statement. I do wish I could spend more time with Sarah, but at the stage of life we are in, with the family dynamics we have I think we are both doing pretty well. In order for fitness and performance to progress you have to work hard, relationships are just the same, we have some nice things planned for the weeks ahead, and the day to day living is good.

I have come up with a cunning plan for the next few weeks regarding my training, well it isn’t really cunning but thought that sounded good. Two weeks building with a big emphasis on the Bike volume and overall training consistency, a week where I will back off a little, then a big 10 days to coincide with my Half Term break. That should see me through to the 3rd week in Feb when it will be time to start upping the intensity and dipping my toe in the early season Cycling Time Trial waters.

Big shout out to my Dad who is gradually building his training up. In pretty miserable conditions last week he successfully completed his first 50 mile ride for 8 months following his inner ear problems, well done Dad, looking good.

Finally to my mate Tom who has now launched and released 2 editions of MarathonTalk, a weekly podcast that he and his friend Martin Yelling are producing. This is a really exciting venture for Tom, it is really good listening. If you like running then check them out on Itunes.

Have a great week, things are getting back to normal, but what is normal????

Saturday, 2 January 2010

The Last Decade; Part 3

Ben had been completing Ironman Triathlons on and off since 2000, and I enjoyed following his training and races and took huge inspiration from his performances. The Ironman Triathlon consists of a 2.5mile swim, 112 mile cycle and 26.2 mile run it was a race that he had mastered with a couple of performances at the World Championships in Hawaii, but I hadn’t even entertained it. Why I found myself in front of the computer early in the year entering Ironman UK set for mid August I am not sure, but it became a huge focus for the coming year. Training during April, May, June and July was really ramped up to consistently 50 plus hours each month and come August I had ridden in excess of 4000 miles, I was ready......but first.

On June 6th a couple of weeks late Sarah gave birth to Evie Mae Garrard (less than a day old in the photo). She was in a gruelling labour for 24 hours, but eventually Evie came out, she weighed 6lb 10oz. Once again my beautiful wife had given me another beautiful little girl. The next day I took Ellie to the hospital, and I remember some fantastic moments as Ellie watched over and cuddled her brand new little sister. I took all my girls home and although I was seriously outnumbered I was loving every minute of it.

Mum, Dad, Sarah, Ellie and 6 week old baby Evie all made the journey down to Sherbourne in Dorset for the race. We have rented some fabulous accommodation and after a couple of chilled out days race day arrived. I finished the race in 11:08:43 and was elated with my performance. Apart from a puncture in mile 1 of the bike the day went pretty much to plan. Many emotions went through my mind during the race, but the feelings as I ran down the finishing shoot to cross the line were a mix of relief, excitement and joy. It was an amazing experience and especially great that my Mum and Dad and family were there to share the day with me. I think my Dad was as emotionally drained as me as for the duration of the day he had followed me all over the course, he was number one supporter and I was an Ironman.

Just prior to IMUK I hooked up for a ride with Tom Williams. Tom was a member of the Leeds and Bradford Triathlon Club and I happened to make contact with him. On the phone there was an instant ease of conversation, similarities in our lives, both having done Sports Science Degrees, and Tom now teaching as a lecturer at University Leeds and I knew we would get along great. I am pleased I phoned Tom, apart from sharing a great 75 mile ride we started what has turned out to be a strong friendship.

I was keen to retain my 10 mile TT title, unfortunately Tom took me down by 4 seconds, but we were both destroyed by a very strong, experienced cyclist who put 53 seconds into me, I took bronze.


We started the year celebrating my Dad’s 60th Birthday. A great weekend was had at Center Parcs with Dad's sister Jan and Uncle Gary, Mum and Dad and Max and Rachael. Dad and I went close to winning the Badminton Doubles Tournament, we walked, cycled and ran and had a nice relaxing time. Dad is a real inspiration to me especially when it comes to Sport. Later this year he was to do his first ever 12 hour time trial covering 206 miles. He still cycles, races, runs, lifts weights and coaches football, all in addition to coaching the sport at Swanbourne House Prep School.

I had decided I wanted some more Ironman action, so I entered Ironman Switzerland, based in Zurich in early July. I trained consistently through the first few months of the year and with 3850 cycle miles in my legs before July I felt pretty good. I had tried to be a little more consistent with my long 2 hour runs and felt good. During May Tom and I set ourselves a challenge to complete a total of 1000 miles in the pool, on foot or on the bike, I succeeded with 981 cycle miles and 104 running miles, so knew I was in good shape. On race day I was caught out by cold wet conditions, I shivered my way round the first lap of the bike and was relieved when the sun came out. I ran hard in the final couple of km’s to cross the line absolutely smashed in a time of 11:03:16. At first I was a little disappointed that I hadn’t been able to bike a little quicker and run a bit faster to get a 10 hour time, but with a very solid race and a new PB it didn’t take long before I was overjoyed.

We travelled to Interlaken for a couple of weeks camping on a Canvas Campsite. This was a really enjoyable holiday and the perfect way to relax after the race and spend some quality time as a family.

Inspired by Dad’s forthcoming 12 hour time trial, I set of to ride all day during the summer holidays. I covered 153.5 miles in 8hours 45 minutes; my longest ever ride in a day. I also got back the Leeds and Bradford Triathlon Club 10 mile Time Trial Championships.

Another highlight of the year was going up to Scotland with Max and Dad. This was a Birthday present from me and Max to Dad. We travelled up on the train to Corrour Station and spent 5 days walking to Fort William, camping and trying to avoid the mosquito’s as we went. Once in Fort William we walked up Ben Nevis before getting the train home again. This was a really enjoyable trip and we hope to plan something similar in the future.

Evie Celebrated her 1st Birthday and Ellie celebrated her 4th, my girls were growing up. They were great fun to be around and Ellie was taking a real interest in drawing, writing, reading and of course playing with dolls.

Sarah continued to expand her ‘Musical Success’ business by learning how to repair and service Clarinets, Flutes and Saxophones. We set up a workshop for her in the loft and repairing and servicing instruments proved to be an excellent additional service to be able to offer.

Work for me was going very well, the sport at the school was in a good place, my GCSE and A Level Students were experiencing success and I was enjoying the daily job of teaching PE. Work has always been important to me but I would be lying if I didn’t place it third in my list of priorities firmly behind my family and my sporting interests. I feel I am committed to the job, I am good at what I do, yet I have always maintained a strong view that it would not become the primary focus for my week. I made a choice to teach partly because it allows me much more time throughout the year to spend with my family and to do all the things I love doing. At Read School I get 16 weeks holiday a year, I have never not had long holidays, as a kid at school, as a student at University and then as a teacher, I don’t know anything different and know I don’t want that to change.


Unfortunately the start to the year was filled with illness and medical problems. My Dad had experienced a severe case of Labyrinthitis.Evie spent a night in hospital with a particularly aggressive vomiting/ stomach bug. I picked up my first ever ear infection, which turned nasty and required three nights in hospital. I needed an operation to further perforate the ear drum so as to remove an infected area in the middle ear. I spent a total of 18 days (and required 2 weeks off work) unable to do any physical activity. I also missed out on a planned trip to Arizona to catch up with Ben for a week’s Triathlon Training on one of his camps, I was devastated. The arrival of Spring seemed to lift everybody’s health and we were all soon back to full fitness.

Lanzarote Ironman was the race for 2009, race day 23rd May, Tom and his wife Helen were also due to race so we pushed each other through the winter into a gruelling training session we like to do in the Spring. Located on the A168, there is a great 7.5 mile stretch of slightly undulating road between 2 roundabouts near Wetherby. The session consists of 7 laps followed this year by a 10 mile run. Tom and I took it in turns to ride on the front with the rider behind maintaining the 10m drafting distance (so not tucked in behind the wheel) I was riding super strongly, but staying in control, we went through 100 miles in 4:21:45 and finished with a great 10 mile run in 1hour 25 minutes. It was an awesome session and left me feeling confident going into the final weeks of training before Lanzarote.

Lanzarote Ironman is considered one of, if not the toughest Ironman race due to the heat, winds and tough bike course which has over 2000m of climbing. I crossed the finish line in 11 hours 53 minutes and 43 seconds hand in hand with Ellie. I was absolutely beaten up, the heat had taken its toll, I was severely sunburned and would struggle to walk normally for a couple of days. I had missed my target time of sub 11 hours by quite a bit but sometimes the outcome is less important than the process, and 23rd May was definitely one of those days. The process of the training, the build up to the race and the race itself, the highs, the lows and sharing the day with great friends and my fabulous family made the outcome unimportant. We spent the rest of a fabulous week in a lovely apartment enjoying the sun, chilling by the pool and visiting parts of the Island that the bike course had passed.

I enjoyed plenty more cycle races getting back into time trialling. I finished the summer riding well and maintained my grasp on the Leeds and Bradford Triathlon Club 10 mile Time Trial title.
We had a nice two week summer holiday in Majorca, the girls had a brilliant time. Although the resort wasn’t mine or Sarah’s cup of tea we enjoyed 14 days of blue skies and temperatures in the high 20’s and loved seeing the girls excited faces from day to day.

In September Ellie started school. Looking sweet in her new school uniform she just couldn’t wait. A term has passed and she is loving it. She has played her recorder with her friend in front of her class, she loves writing, drawing and is getting a real grip for numbers, she was a beautiful Angel in the Wiggly Nativity Play and above all she goes to school each morning with a big smile on her face.

The year ended with a fabulous Christmas spent with my Mum and Dad and two very excited little girls. Evie is a bundle of energy, with a really bright, cheeky personality and Ellie is becoming a really caring, thoughtful little girl. As the year ends I couldn’t imagine a house without the noise, energy and vibrancy that Ellie, Evie and of course Sarah give it.

The Last Decade; Part 2


We had set a wedding date for July 2005, and made a decision to try for a baby during the first half of 2004. We were very fortunate to hit the jackpot almost immediately; Sarah was pregnant, expecting a baby in September.

We moved into our new house in May and I set about employing the skills of my Dad that summer to build the foundations and do the brick work for a conservatory. We left the fitting of the windows and glass roof to the experts, and I then finished off the flooring. This was to be Sarah’s place of work. She would continue to expand Musical Success and her private teaching of the Flute, Clarinet and Saxophone. It worked perfectly keeping her work separate from our home.

After a few years of very little racing I decided to enter the Aberfeldy ½ Ironman Triathlon with some of my friends. They had entered and I decided I was missing out so put in a late entry. I loved the race and that proved to be the start of my triathlon racing comeback.

My brother Max and Rachael got married in the summer; this was a really nice family occasion in a beautiful setting of Door near Sheffield.

Sarah, my Mum and Dad and I managed to squeeze a week’s holiday in a Log Cabin near Coed-y-Brennin in North Wales. I scared the crap out of my Dad as we cycled round the technical Redbull Mountain Bike trails in the nearby forest. Sarah was very, very pregnant, it was the Olympics and I remember watching Denise Lewis win her Gold medals on the track.

On September 18th after a gruelling afternoon and evening for Sarah, Ellie Elizabeth Garrard was born (out the sunroof via Cesarean section) two weeks early she weighed 5lb10oz. Sarah was amazing and tiny Ellie looked very happy with her Mum. I remember driving home from the hospital in York late at night, grinning all the way, it truly was an amazing time for us all. The following day my parents arrived to see their little Granddaughter, and as soon as I was allowed I was back across to the hospital. After a week in hospital Sarah and I took Ellie home, she was so little it was unreal, I could put her head in the palm of my hand and her feet didn’t reach my elbow.

Wedding plans seemed to play a big part for the first part of the year (at least for Sarah anyway) I kind of went with the flow, as all good prospective husbands should do.

After a year flying across the Atlantic my best friend Ben had finally decided to make his move to Seattle (USA) so that he could make his relationship with Cindy really work. I was gutted to lose such a close friend, but at the same time could see Cindy was the girl for Ben and that this was exactly the thing to do.

I celebrated my 30th Birthday in style. Sarah had organised a surprise party for me. A few friends came across and we went out for a bike ride, with the view of having a small party later in the day. When we returned soaked to the skin after a wet ride, I opened the living room door to find all my family and many more friends crammed into the room all firing off party poppers and singing Happy Birthday, it was a great day.

I had a really cool idea for a Stag Do, which my Best Man Ben pulled off with great success. Shying away from the popular ‘get pissed in a foreign country for a long weekend’ type affair, I decided, my Dad and my closest mates would like a weekend away at a Farm House in the Yorkshire Dales. We had a great day Mountain Biking in Dalby Forest followed by fish and chips and an evening in Scarborough drinking beer and dancing until the early hours. Sunday morning Cayton Bay was calling for some surf lessons. The waves were good and for those that made it into the water heads soon cleared. Sarah had a great Hen Night in York where the usual antics occurred; she was transformed into Kylie for the evening complete with Gold hot pants.

On 30th July we got married at Brayton Church followed by a fabulous reception at Monk Fryston Hall. It was another amazing day and there was not one thing that we would have changed. My musically talented cousin Nathan played acoustic guitar in the church and at the reception, he then put on his DJ hat playing some great tunes late into the evening. The following day Sarah and I welcomed everybody back to our garden for a BBQ and afternoon chilling in the sun. We had a wonderful weekend, spent with family and friends. A few days later leaving Ellie with my Mum and Dad we flew to Italy for a week’s relaxation on the shores of Lake Garda. On our return we headed north to Center Parcs with Ellie for a long weekend.

We celebrated Ellie’s 1st Birthday in September with a party in our garden.


This year marked a real move forward I got back into consistent training and racing. It was the first year since 2000 that I had kept a training diary and I was training hard for time trials and a season of Triathlons. Over the course of the year I did 22 races including 10, 25 and 50 mile time trials, Duathlons, and a couple of ½ Ironman Triathlons, namely Trentham Gardens and the excellent Big Cow event in Milton Keynes. I joined the Leeds and Bradford Triathlon Club and took 1st place at their 10 mile time trial event. Over the year I rode 5760 miles on my bike and trained for a total of 450 hours. I am not sure what made me step up my game in terms of training and racing but a lot has to do with realising that these things made me tick and it was what I enjoyed doing.

An exciting start to the year saw us get a loft conversion. Neighbours had just had one and the transformation on their house was amazing. Being inquisitive I knocked on their door to see what they were doing and soon we were doing the same, and they (Paul and Nikki) soon become really good friends. Opening up the loft gained us an extra bedroom and a nice space at the top of the stairs; it really changed the look and feel of our house.

Ellie was really unfortunate when she got Chicken Pox. She had a really nasty reaction around her eyes, ears and on her face which saw her admitted to hospital for a week. Here she was on antibiotics and under close watch just to make sure it didn’t do any real damage. Luckily it cleared up fine just leaving her with a couple of Special Chicken Pox scars on the side of her head.
Ben had proposed to Cindy and in July I flew out to Seattle to be his Best Man. He had a great wedding aboard a boat in the waters off of Seattle followed by a fun evening in Seattle. I spent a week with Ben chilling out, riding our bikes, running and catching up before the wedding took place.

Sarah and I celebrated our first wedding anniversary with a short break to Italy, this time to Sorrento. Once again my Mum and Dad stepped in, they enjoyed a few days looking after Ellie, allowing us some time to ourselves.

Unbelievably, for it seemed just a short time ago she was being born, Ellie celebrated her 2nd Birthday. Not long after that Sarah found out she was pregnant again, we were really excited and the May due date didn’t seem too far away.

The Last Decade: Part 1...

My friend Paul gave me the idea of writing a review of the last 10 years. It was pretty amazing to look back on this period in my life, most years have been full of really exciting things, far too many to mention. What I have tried to do is capture some of the special, most significant moments......

I saw in the new Millennium with my best mate Ben Bigglestone at a party. After midnight, fuelled by mucho alcohol we decided to abort the party to go to another celebration at a friend’s house in Rawdon. 2000 started with a very drunk 5 mile run at 1am to Pauls, where the fun and games continued. If I remember correctly at one stage I was performing handstands against a wall dressed only in a cooking apron!!

I celebrated my 25th Birthday in Leeds with Ben. It was a great night as we celebrated not only my Birthday but my success earlier in the day getting a new job, Head of the PE Department at Read School.

Athletically I achieved some great things. I rode PB’s in various distance Time Trials. They are still my PB’s 10 years on. I rode 21.12 for 10 miles, 53.42 for 25 miles (the absolute perfect time trialling morning) 1.55.50 for 50 miles, and I did 37.50 for the Dewsbury 10k run. Will I ever ride the bike as quick? Well I think the 10 and 25 maybe out of reach, but I think I could get the 50.

I was still coaching Soccer for NOGA a company based on Long Island NY, USA, and spent 3 weeks during my summer holiday directing a couple of camps.

I qualified and completed in the World Duathlon Championships in Calais, over a distance of 10k run, 40k bike and 5k run. This was a fabulous event; I loved every minute of it. It was made even more special by the fact that Max (my brother) was also racing. The photo is with a good friend John Trevena, an awesome athlete!

The year finished in style. On 31st December I met a gorgeous girl called Sarah Cullen. We met at Manchester Airport, with a group of mutual friends ready to fly to Andorra for my first ever snowboarding holiday.


To this day we are not sure if the snowboarding holiday was a set up, but either way we had a brilliant New Year’s Eve, and weeks snowboarding (The photo was taken early in the morning on 1st January) I subsequently started 2001 with a new Girlfriend. Sarah got to know me in Andorra with a crazy, blond, curly, surfer hair style and a full goatie beard, When I arrived at her flat in the second week of January I looked like a teenager, clean shaven, with a short spiky hair cut (all the blond locks cut off) I think she was a little surprised, but she still liked me!

Work was going well at Read School, however the travelling from Leeds was proving to much of a journey so in April I took up the position of House Master in the schools Boarding House. This allowed me to save some money and roll out of bed down to breakfast and in to work.
The M62 became mine and Sarah’s road. We travelled it as often as we could between Leeds/ Selby and Didsbury. We took a holiday together in Morocco, enjoying each other’s company but hating the place. I have heard that Marrakech is the City least returned to in the World, it wasn’t our cup of tea!

I spent a few more weeks in the summer coaching Soccer on Long Island.

I decided to make Sarah a new TV table. Five patio slabs were required so we picked some up from B&Q and set to work on the very modern looking table, (straight out of ‘Living’ magazine). Three slabs would rest on their ends, with the two slabs resting on them to form the flat table top. The leg slabs were too tall so needed a trim. We went down to the hire shop for an angle grinder and grinding disks. We had a slight problem, Sarah’s flat was on the 3rd floor, and we didn’t have a long enough extension lead. I confidently said it won’t take long so let’s cut the slabs in your hallway. Well clearly my mind wasn’t working very well, as I made the first cut and brick dust fired out the back of the grinder all over the walls, Sarah freaked out hid in the kitchen drinking wine while I finished what I had started. I think Sarah was cleaning up slab dust for months, but miraculously I wasn’t dumped and guess what? Sarah had a really cool TV table, which we still have.

I represented Great Britain again at the World Duathlon Championships, this time in Rimini (Italy) Sarah, my Mum and Dad came with me. I wasn’t very well prepared, having a fairly low key sort of racing season, but I was there and ready to give it everything. Unfortunately in torrential rain I punctured on the first lap of the bike course so my race ended rather abruptly.


Sarah and I enjoyed a fabulous snowboarding holiday at Banff (Canada), it is definitely a place I hope to return to someday.

Come the Spring we had both decided we knew the M62 well enough by now. Sarah’s work situation had changed and we decided to rent a place together near my School. It was a pretty basic cottage in the middle of a farm....... a PIG farm. I loved it, however Sarah was not as impressed. Leaving her lovely brand new Didsbury flat for a dark, damp, spider infested, pig smelling rented cottage was not her idea of fun, but we had a great time buying stuff and enjoying each other’s company.

I finished off the school year in the Boarding house, giving up this part of the job so Sarah and I could spend more time together.

I did a couple more years in the States coaching Soccer, and Sarah and I flew out later in the summer for a holiday, staying with some of my friends at their holiday home in the Hamptons on Long Island. The Hamptons are a beautiful, beach fronted location at the end of the Island, multi-million dollar homes are the norm. We had a great week.


During the Spring Sarah and I brought our first house together. It was a really nice 3 bedroom semi-detached house in the village of Brayton, a well sought after village just a few miles outside Selby. We spent much of that year doing the DIY and decorating thing. The living room floor boards got a sanding, we knocked down the bathroom/ toilet walls to make one big bathroom and put in a new kitchen.

We hosted some great parties; the cocktail party was one of the best. We built a bar, had every cocktail or shot available and had a gambling gazebo with poker and Russian roulette. It was a great night.

I continued to snowboard, leading a holiday for the school to France and fitting in a New Years trip with Ben.

I changed my car this year. My trusty Fiat Punto was gone, replaced by a 4L Jeep Wrangler Sport. I loved it, with the top off and the roaring 4L it was pretty cool. Jeep Wranglers are common place cruising along the beach boulevards on Long Island and now I had my own. I just wished the British weather made having a soft top car more amenable.

At the end of our garden we had a wooden shed and an old brick built one. I drew up a grand plan to demolish both and build a 5m x 3m brick built one which would become my gym. Having cleared the site, dug and concreted the foundations, my Dad then joined me for a week to help with the brick work. We constructed it from breeze blocks, put on a lean to roof, with exposed beams inside, and put in a recycled barn door into a door frame I had constructed. I spent the following week rendering the brick work and finishing off the inside with wooden panels, a laminate floor and spot lights. Neither Dad nor I are builders, but I have inherited my Dad’s practical skills and enjoyment for this kind of work, we were both really proud of what we had achieved. When I moved my weights and training gear into it, it made a fabulous gym.

The summer finished with even more excitement when I proposed to Sarah. My Dad had just left to drive home, we were chilling in the lounge, I reached into my pocket pulled out the ring and asked her to marry me. She said Yes.

In the autumn we put down a deposit on a new build house that was being built in the field at the end of our Garden. It was due for completion in Spring 2004 and looked like a really nice 3 bedroom detached house. At the time we had planned to buy it as an investment to rent out. However as the build progressed we realised it was going to be a lovely house on a large corner plot, so we decided to put our house on the market and move into the new one.

Sarah made another career change and decided to work for herself teaching private music lessons. As a kid she played Flute, Clarinet and the Saxophone all to high levels and decided that a change of direction could result in a new career. Things took off instantly with the phone constantly ringing with local people wanting music lessons.