Wallmans Week of Wonderment & Woe

It’s been a strange old week, from receiving awards to having my groin dug out!

Since my operation last week I’ve received many ‘get well’ messages and notes of support and visits, thank you very much, they’re all greatly appreciated.

Many of these people have had Hernias themselves and have offered excellent advice on recuperation towards the road to recovery. Now, I’m feeling a bit of a fraud here, as I haven’t had a true Hernia! What I’ve been suffering with is a Sports Hernia. A Sports Hernia is also known as Gilmores Groin but its correct medical name is Athletic Pubalgia I believe.

Since my running streak started in October 2015 I’ve had a terrific time running every day and entering a few fantastic races around Europe along the way.

In May 2016 I took a nasty fall whilst running the Ultra Transvulcania on La Palma. At the time I only suffered cuts, bruises and a massive dent in my pride. It’s hard to pinpoint when my condition started but I now feel that this could have been the beginning of it!

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Before Transvulcania I’d had a slight problem with Sciatica, afterwards, I seemed to have a permanently sore groin with sharp stabbing pains slightly higher. I could run, I just had no oomph to train or push myself!

In my usual manner, I just thought that my body would fix itself eventually if I left it long enough. Well, there’s only so long that you can wait to heal and when it became apparent that I was slipping further down the wrong side of fitness, I knew I had to do something about it!

Anyone I described my symptoms to said it was likely to be a hernia. I took to my friend Google and within a few minutes, I found the likely cause was Gilmores Groin.

Luckily my doctor was familiar with this condition but the course of action looked likely to be long and drawn out. Further down the line and two months later I was no further forward with treatment so on the advice of my doctor I approached a private surgeon who was apparently a specialist in Sports Hernias.

After an in-depth consultation with Mike Scott, I was convinced I’d found my savior and booked in for the operation.

Before the operation I found myself doubting my condition, as it suddenly didn’t seem so bad. Was I imagining my symptoms, was it really worth going for the operation, perhaps I’d over-analyzed everything, the doubt crept in…

All those months in pain, not being able to lift my legs out of bed in the morning, a knife to the groin when I sneezed or coughed, a debilitating feeling after running in the left side of my groin, anything abdominal related was a massive no-no. Added to this that I just couldn’t push it hard or even do a good tempo run was bringing me down! With all this going on I owed it to myself to get it sorted out properly.

My running everyday streak was going to come to an abrupt end but once I’d committed to the operation I was at peace with that. I set my last run day to end on a good one and it sure was.

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The Spartan Xmas Sparty was on Saturday 3rd December and as always we run with Xmas hats and the like before the main party. This was to end my streak and be my last run of 2016.

2942.9 Miles run. That’s almost to Kuwait!

7.3 Miles average daily distance.

387,722ft of elevation (13.3 times up Everest)

25 days, 21hours, 3 minutes and 54 seconds clocked in running time on my feet.

My mood (not that I was in a mood) was massively lifted at the Sparty when I received an award for the most Inspirational run in the club and to top that I managed to take home the most coveted award of all in Spartan history the Spartans Sparta Award (I think it’s got something to do with being a bit bossy in the club!).

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So here I am, five days after my Athletic Pubalgia operation lying comfortably on the couch. I’ve got no burning desire to run just yet but I did do a very gentle one-mile walk yesterday and three miles today.

My surgeon did make a big point of saying how badly messed up I was inside and that recovery would be excellent but not quick. I’m happy to take my time over the next few months to see how my body heals and feels.

I plan to take it steady away in 2016 and give Steph maximum support for her relay Channel crossing swim in September 2017. I’ll enter the odd ultra or two if I feel up to it but I’ll be hopefully looking at a bigger picture for 2018!

My support while I was streaking and after my operation has being phenomenal. A massive thank you must go out to all my friends and especially my wife and number one fan, Stephné.

Dave Douglas

Delamere Spartan

#1Wallman

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Note- I’d be really interested in hearing from other ultra runners who have suffered from the same condition or think they may be suffering from it.

Mike Scott is based at Fairfield Independent Hospital, St Helens, WA11 7RS.

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Wallmans High Trail Vanoise 2016

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High Trail Vanoise- 67KM 5,400m DE D+ 10/07/16

02:45 my alarm goes off. I didn’t get much sleep but I bolt out of my bed and spring into action. All of my running gear is packed and my choice of clothes is neatly laid out and ready for action.

Dressed, cup of tea, salami sandwich, lube up, sun block 50 x twice (take no chances!), last minute faff and I’m ready, well almost. I have an overwhelming desire for another cup of tea, it’s 03:35 and I need to leave before 03:45, what’s the point? Without further ado I quickly make my brew, 03:40. I decide that I haven’t got time to enjoy it so I look around for something to put it in to take it with me. I take an empty scrunched up water bottle out of the bin, perfect! With my sandwich in one hand and my bottle of tea in the other I head out of the door, 3:46. It’s cutting it fine but I’m calm and composed as I head to the Place des Dolomites where the start is located.

As I walk I’m feeling proud of myself, everything has gone perfectly clockwork so far, that’s until I see all the other runners rolling into the start pen with their head torches, running sacks and poles. POLES, s**t, where’s my poles? In my smug bottle of tea moment, I’d put my poles down to pick up my tea, (insert expletives x 100 here)! I’m not mentally or physically strong enough to do this beast without poles! 03:52 and I’m running back to my apartment, how could I have swapped my poles for tea, idiot!!! I grab my poles and head back to the start line, the adrenaline’s pumping but I’ve got a few minutes to spare!

At the briefing yesterday when they said there would be a kit check before the race I though ‘Yer, right, as if that’s going to happen!’, I was wrong, the kit check was duly taking place and rightly so! I though the race was going to be the hard bit, not getting to the start line!!!

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There’s about 200 people ready for the off (166 I later learn), every single one of them look like lean mean running machines. I feel slightly intimidated but know I can hold my own. The count down begins from 10, and 9 seconds later we’re off…..

It takes less than an hour before we reach patches of snow, some of it’s firm but mostly it’s slushy and hard going. We’re soon on a small col by a ski station and as we turn the corner a beautiful piece of single track trail snakes across the mountainside, perfect. I’ve got a couple of keen racing snakes on my heels but I’m going well and motoring around the mountain. That is until I go over on my ankle! Aargh, BUGGER BUGGER BUGGER, I limp to the side of the path and let them go. They ask if I’m okay as they pass by but they’re gone before I can reply. It’s only a rolled ankle and it’s happened many times before in races. I know the score, 2 minutes of pain, 10 minutes of awkwardness then it’ll be tender but ok to carry on. I limp off and continue my race but not at the speed I’d like to be doing. I try and recall how far it was back to the last marshal, just in case it’s worse than I think!

As we head higher the snow patches become ski slopes and a race marshal recommends that we put our snow spikes on. Looking at what lay ahead I wasn’t going to argue with him.

We passed the Funicular de la Grande Motte just as all the staff were spilling out for a day working the ski lifts and pistes (yes, Summer skiing/snowboarding) and could clearly see our first and highest objective at 3656 meters, La Grande Motte. There’s a refreshment station here so I take a moment to soak the surrounding in. As I look towards our peak I can see tiny specks heading up the snow. But these specks aren’t on the mountain itself, there on the ski slope heading towards it. This gives me some aspect/realisation as to how far and high it is away from me!

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Higher up as we we’re leaving the main ski slope on a single track snow plod I could see the runners above on the arête where the snow and mist was blowing over and around them. I still had only my vest on and thought it wise to cover up for that bit!

As we headed upwards a rocky crag barred our way. Luckily a gully with a fixed rope was in place to help us onwards. Once on the top our number was zapped and we were instructed to put our poles safely away. I was intrigued as to what lay ahead that we couldn’t use our poles for! My curiosity was soon answered when I came to a cliff face below me with ropes hanging over! The friendly marshal at the top gave me reassuring instructions in a stern voice. It’s a shame I didn’t understand a word he said but I got the gist of it which including danger and death! There was about 20m of scrambling down aided by ropes, to me it was ok but I could see how a novice could easily be freaked out and become crag-fast (stuck)!

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I haven’t really run any distance downhill fast in the snow but it’s not that hard. Most of it was over your ankles but now and again you could go knee deep! This was great for icing my dodgy ankle I thought.

When the snow finally petered out we were on a downhill winding stony road. In the winter this would be an excellent red cruise back to Tignes before après apéritifs but today it was a dull grind.

After Tignes we went back upwards on nice single track that brought us to open meadows. This was fantastic running, let this continue for many a kilometer I though, I could run this all day. Well, it was great while it lasted but then we were treated to a traditional downhill forest zigzag fest that spat us out at La Daille.

The temperature had really turned up a few notches and you could see it in everyone’s stride as they arrived into the feed station. I took one of the two chairs available right by the food. As usual I wasn’t hungry, but I forced down a couple of cups of noodle soup followed by a few orange segments all washed down with two cups of coke. Water bottles refilled and I was off feeling great again. That was until I got 200 meters away and realised that I’d left my poles behind (again!)!

Two weeks prior to this race I’d ran the Mont Blanc Marathon 80km and thought I’d tackled the toughest of steep hills, I was wrong. This path up to the Passage de Picheru was an absolute monster of a climb. I was thankful of the mini feast I’d had below because I wasn’t sure how long I could keep trucking up this hill. Every time you thought it’s just over the brow there, you were crushed with another incline that seemed to go on forever. My heart beat matched that of someone flicking through a deck of cards, my breathing was labored and heavy but I was smiling like a Cheshire Cat.

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What goes up must go down and down I went. More snow and slush but it took the pounding off the feet for a while. I could see Lac de la Sassière down below where more refreshments were waiting.

I still had my gloves stuffed down the front of my running shorts from when I’d summited the Grand Motte. I’d only notice them once they’d slipped beyond my groin area, so I’d quickly grab them and pull them higher up and swear to put them in my rucksack the next time I stopped.

At this point runners were few and far between. Even though Steph had texted me updates, I hadn’t looked at my phone so I had no idea where in the field I was. At a very rough guess I would said I was in the top half judging by where I started and who I’d passed or been passed by!

After the lake we followed a rocky path upwards that wasn’t too steep, oh joy. The descent on the other side wasn’t drastically steep but this forced you to run at a good pace in the very hot sun. Had this been a shorter run this descent would have been fantastic but not today!

I landed in La Fornet knowing that I’d broken the back of the race. One more major climb to do then it was all-downhill…. or so I thought!

As the marshal zapped my number I headed for the shade of a bus shelter, the last few hours in the blistering sunshine had really taken it out of me. As I sat there cooling down I was joined by another sun struck runner. I asked him how many kilometers it was to the finish. He shuck his head and I thought he was trying to tell me that he didn’t know or he didn’t understand me, when I rephrased my question he looked at me and clearly said ‘it’s over, we’re timed out’ in a French hacked off tone! It took a few seconds to sink in, ‘timed out’, I’ve never been timed out of a race in my life. I didn’t even know what the cut off points were but I was sure as hell that I hadn’t been slow on the course!

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I headed out of the bus shelter where there were about 10 other runners all very annoyed at the situation. I asked around and eventually found an English speaking person that confirmed we had all been timed out and a mini bus was waiting to take us back to base. I walked away in disbelief, all the other runners were up in arms and babbling on in French, none of which I could understand apart from the disappointment and anger in their voices. I slowly resigned myself that that was it, rules were rules and I didn’t make the cut. I went and sat by the minibus as there were more runners than seats by now.

I put my poles away, stopped my Strava and pulled out my mobile to give Steph the disappointing news. Just as I was about to call I noticed a change in attitude by the bus stop, something had happened. I put my phone away and headed over to see what had changed. There were a few less runners than before and I soon learned that because of the difficult conditions prior they were going to extend the cut off at this point by one hour, game on…

I slogged up to ski station at the Col de Iseran and made the cut off by 10 minutes. The marshal vaguely pointed his finger towards the hanging valley and gestured that the next section went around it. It didn’t look too bad as long as we didn’t have to go to the top of those mountains in the far distance and along that wild ridge. An hour later we were scrambling up rocks and scree in a fairly vertical manner. The guy in front of me missed a marker and was heading towards a point of no return. A quick call and his bacon was saved!

It soon became apparent that those mountains and that wild ridge were exactly where we were heading, so be it. This was real mountain territory, steep, loose, hard to follow path, despite being very tired I was in my element. All those Mountain Mondays were paying off good style. My lungs and heart were still rapidly functioning thus causing a standing break every ten or so minutes.

On the way to topping out at Aiguille Pers (3386m) on the French/Italian border I followed an awesome ridge with a massive drop into Italy on the left and steep snow/scree to the right. This wasn’t just running this was true Alpine mountaineering! After being zapped by another epic marshal I had a lot of downhill snow (again) to get back to the col. I knew that after the col I had a bit more uphill before I could have access to the other side via a tunnel where my village lay and the end of my epic race.

At the Col de I’seran I loaded up on Liptons Ice Tea and a cup of coke. I didn’t have the stomach to eat anything but I was raring to go. A female marshal smiled as she told me that I only had 10 kilometres to go and the cut off was in an hour. An hour to do 10 kilometres was impossible especially when you saw that ascent up through the snow and goodness knows what on the other side. She then said, maybe an hour and a half with another innocent smile. I didn’t see red or frustration, I saw a challenge!

Without a second thought I was on my feet and storming towards the snow line. I hadn’t really had a second wind today, it was just get on with it Douglas, moping around won’t help finish this race. I’d overtaken two guys on the last section and I knew there were two more ahead of me somewhere. Not only am I going to finish this race but I’m head hunting too.

Yet again the snow was mushy and hard going but I was in a rhythm and moving fast. The lethargy in my legs had been replaced with Liptons Ice Tea and I rocketed up the hill. Like all good things it came to an abrupt end. The snow ran out and I was faced with a chossy (bad/nasty/loose) near vertical face climb. The roped sections earlier on were easier and safer than this! It’s no exaggeration to say a slip from here would be to meet my maker! As I wasn’t ready to meet him just yet I carefully moved upwards and picked the best line possible to be met outside a tunnel by two officials and their dog (surely them came from the other side?). Only 8 kilometres to the finish they tell me. The tunnel is about 100m long, I emerge out of the other side ready for the final downhill blast.

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There’s no path as such, just a very steep scree slope with the occasional blue rock to follow. I bound down the slope knowing that the finish line lies at the end of this valley somewhere.

Where the scree stops the snow starts. I could see footsteps heading directly down the steepest bit, oh well I thought, here goes. After I few steps I could see a bum shaped groove heading in a straight line. I’d heard about these epic bum slides but had never had the chance to try one. Before I could rationally talk myself out of it I was on my arse and bombing down this slope out of control. I dug my feet in only to give myself a full body spray. I quickly learned that my poles were my friends and by holding them like a paddle I could semi control myself. I recon I did a good half a kilometre in less than a minute, result!

As I composed myself and carried on on foot I spied my quarry about a kilometre ahead of my, they were walking on the flat, I knew with my renewed vigor that I’d be running that bit, not walking.

They dipped out of sight and I pushed on, I knew there was a small lake somewhere ahead and once I passed that, it was a direct route to the finish line. The markers weren’t as often as they had been and I had to pay close attention not to lose them. The pace was good and I reckoned that I’d easily covered more than half the descent. I noticed a marker flag on the side of the snow and two blue dots on the rocky soil above. Here we go again, off the snow and onto an unchartered upwards-grassy slope. Why did I ever believe that there’d be no more uphill after what we’d just been put though?

The hill turned into a grassy ridge and I could see the guys half a kilometre away. This just egged me on to push harder and every time they reappeared they were a little bit closer to me! Just before Lac de L’Ouillette I finally pasted them. To say they were a little surprised was an understatement. I tried to be friendly and make conversation about how close we were to the finish and let’s go together but I could see the tiredness in their eyes and knew there was only one pace that they were doing and that was it!

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I left them with a wave and five minutes later at the final timer control point I turned to see them a good distance back but running. Running, but they were dead on their feet almost and now they’re running, oh bugger, this meant that I was going to have to run even faster to stop them catching me up. When running in a pair you can easily spark off each other and muster up enthusiasm to nail a cocky English man on their home turf. I swear there was smoke coming off my shoes as I hurled myself down the steep slope towards the finish. At the first corner I glanced back up the hill to see my competition at the top. For them to catch me now would be nigh on impossible but that didn’t stop me giving it hell for leather down the black (Rhone-Alpes) run to the finish.

As I entered the finishing straight the microphone was booming and a small handful of people cheered me over the finishing line. I shook hands with everyone while telling them that was the best course I’d ever ran ( Steve Mee style!). There were no tears of joy, no sick, no collapsing, no cramp, just an overwhelming feeling of euphoria and tiredness. I was handed my finishers t-shirt (no medal!) and sat for a while to contemplate what I’d just achieved.

The guys I was chasing then being chased by came in 5 minutes after me. I shook their hands and we exchanged stale sweat and pleasantries.

Out of 166 starters only 48 made it to the finish line. I was well chuffed with a hard fought for 43rd place in 16hrs 16mins! The majority DNF’d will only 9 getting timed out.

It was only after my bath I felt a pain in my ankle and my mind was reminded of the early mishap that nearly finished me!!!

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If you want a beautiful race high in the Alps with very challenging terrain then this is the race for you!

Dave Douglas

#1wallman

#mountainmonday

 

The official Skyrunning write up about the event  by Ian Corless is here- http://bit.ly/HTV2016

 

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A Dublin Debacle

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Three enormous bouncers breathed down on me but I knew I needed to keep my wits about myself for I was seconds off getting the beating of my life. I’ve heard to many horror stories about people ‘falling’ down stairs and ‘tripping’ on exit! The last five hours had been a whistle stop tour of Dublin’s finest bars and hostelries. I was scared, very scared…

The question was why did I smash the toilet cubicle and door off the wall? At first I’d just denied anything to do with it, keep quiet and get the hell outta there was my stance to the first bouncer. Unfortunately my partner in crime couldn’t help me so I had no option other than to fess-up!

I’d entered the toilet with a sense of urgency (the Guinness wanted to find it’s way back to the Liffie). As I relieved myself two blokes to my right started laughing and pointing to a bloke trying to crawl out from under the toilet cubicle door. They were shouting over to his mate to open the door so he could get up off the floor. At this point I took a careful balanced decision to leave them all to their own drunken devices and exit quickly back to my friends.

I’ve never really been the sensible one or one to take the easy option plus if I’d been that guy on the floor I’d of been wishing for a good samaritan to help me out (literally!)

The two other blokes left the toilet and I went to help the jammed man out of his unfortunate predicament. I started by shouting to his mate to pull him back under the door. The more he moved in an outward bid for freedom, the firmer he became stuck! With no response from his mate I entered the adjacent cubicle and climbed onto the toilet to peer over into jammed mans space. Unless his mate was the Invisible Man there was no one there. Had there been enough room I might of climbed over to try and open the door or pull him back in.

As I climbed off the toilet I heard the wonderful sound of my stuck subject being sick. I jumped out the toilet to be faced with his head lying in a pool of vomit. I couldn’t tell whether he was trying to be sick again or choking. All throughout this time I’d been talking to him, at first making light of the situation but now it was getting serious. If there was someone else about I would of asked them to seek help (slim chance at 01:00 in a very packed pub!).

Immediate action was called for as my new friend was getting very distressed and gurgling uncannily. He was jammed firm, no way forwards and no way back. I decided the the only option was to take the door off. Two small hinges and one flimsy lock, how hard could it be break them in order to save someone’s life?

I quickly figured that a swift kick to the lock would see to that one then we’d take it from there. What I was about to do was totally reasonable, anyone could see that right? What I didn’t expect was on the third unsuccessful kick to break the lock was the screws in the wall to start coming out! To late to worry about that now, my friend had stopped the gurgling noises and lay motionless on the floor. I could see the fixings to the wall giving in so I gave it two more determined kicks and the whole lot buckled raising the bottom of the doors up. I grabbed Mr Lucky under the armpits and slid him out of the toilet, through his sick and to freedom. His eyes opened in a bewildered stare as he had no idea as to what had just happened to him (or what I’d just done).

Now with a sense of commitment to get this guy cleaned up and back to his mates I helped him to his feet and to the sink. I was semi aware that someone might of come into the gents while I was doing my Kung Foo kicking but they must of quickly retreated once they saw my determination to destruct the cubicles.

The warm glow of success suddenly turned to ice fear as two massive blokes (black trousers, white shirts, dickey bow ties, 20 odd stone, definitely bouncers) stormed into the toilets. One look at the now collapsed cubicle system and they clearly weren’t impressed with my rescue technique. They’d no evidence that I’d caused the damage so I quickly denied everything thinking it would be easier to say it was like that when came in. A third bouncer came into the toilet with confirmation that someone fitting my description had caused the damage (rescue!).

Up until this point I thought everything was under control and I could talk myself out of the situation, tell the truth and all would be fine, NO. I recounted my tale of heroism to the three bouncers but I could see they weren’t impressed and to make it worse, Mr I’ve Just Had My Life Saved had no idea of what had just happened and just kept shrugging his shoulders in a stupid drunk fashion.

The interrogation continued, whilst questions were fired at me one bouncer kept the entrance door firmly closed so no one could enter. What’s your name, where’re you from, do you like vandalism, have you got ID, have you got a credit card, why did you do it, the questions were too fast to answer each one fully and any slip up would be picked up and turned against me. The atmosphere had changed and I feared for my safety,  the door stopper guy was now talking on his walkie talkie and I could hear a special exit been arranged for me. I remembered talking to a customer in the climbing wall at Liverpool about his absence, he told me that a bouncer had picked him out of a lively night club queue and beaten him to an inch of death, he spent two months recovering in hospital, the sparkle in his eyes that was once there had now disappeared!

I was beyond myself, a thousand negative thoughts were going though my head as I was 100% certain the outcome was going to be very bad. Suddenly the door stopper bouncer let someone else in. Great, the odds were greatly now on that I was going home in an ambulance. Rather that another 20 stone of flesh, a young guy with an air of authority entered. He quickly introduced himself as the venue manager and asked for an explanation. My three bouncer acquaintances were quick to point out a  drunk Englishman and pointless destruction but the young guy wasn’t interested in any of this and quickly asked the bouncers to be quiet and heard what I had to say. For what seemed to be the 10th time I carefully explained what had led up to this moment in time. I knew that if I had one chance to get out of this unscathed, this was it. I’m not sure whether he believed me or saw the blind panic in my face but in the flick of his hand I was set free from the bathroom and my imminent pain. I didn’t need to be told twice and I was out of there in a flash.

My friends were where I left them, they were a bit puzzled as to where I’d been but not enough to come looking for me. Even if they had they wouldn’t of got passed the massive door stopper!

Wallman

(This is purely a story of friction!)

Facebook Masters Guild 2013

Facebook Masters Guild 2013

I’d never heard of the FMG (Facebook Masters Guild) until the email arrived, but come to think about it I’d never really had anything to do with Facebook until my daughter decided to go to Australia solo last year! I figured the only way to know she was safe and enjoying it was to follow her antics on Facebook, with her permission of course (a dangerous thing for a father to do!)

I learnt a trick or two over in Dublin watching the media savvy Dave Ayton (Mr Awesome Dublin) spinning his web of enthusiasm over Ireland. Before AWCC Dublin was finished I’d found a building in Sheffield and set up the AWCC Sheffield Facebook page. Without the chaperone of Mr Ayton monitoring my every click I tentatively started to post. Getting ‘Likes’ on your Facebook page is like getting the thumbs up off people that they ‘Like’ your page.

Winning people over and gaining their trust is a hard thing to do and there’s a fine line from being enthusiastic to being a cock-sure outsider! The line was mine to walk…

Now I’m sat here after 12 months of Facebook marketing with a line of interviews lined up for me to attend should I choose to accept. As I’m not really that socially involved with the outside world many of the names were alien to me, one or two I admittedly knew- Parkinson, Paxman but who the hell was Zuckerberg?

Now my strategy was simple just go from the heart to the heart. Post honest interesting material with a slight dusting of humour and see what happens. It’s now been explained to me that it’s not all about the ‘Likes’ that you have (apparently you can buy ‘Likes’ on Facebook for very little money) on Facebook it’s about the interaction that your fans have with your site! I look at the figures and statistics as well as the next keen person but as busy as I am there’s two things that I notice- Green is good and Red is not as good (always keeping a positive here). When I see green more often than red I’m happy and keep posting onwards.

I hear footsteps coming down the hall and towards the office but I’m too slow, caught in the act, I feel like I’ve been looking at something seedy. The words come out- ‘Are you on that bloody Facebook AGAIN?’ I’m shaken out of my day dream with no where to hide. Guilty as found with no worthy retort.

It was a self flattering day dream though…facebook-2

Early Ramblings

From thinking the unthinkable 12 months ago I’ve gone and done it again, Awesome Walls Sheffield is now open and ready for action! How on earth did all this begin?

I opened The Climbing House in Liverpool 1999 against the odds and thought life couldn’t be more stressful. The local council had backed me, given me money, a slap on the back with a wink that the planning application would sail through- NO, deferred it was, the planners deemed it necessary to do a site visit before they could make their minds up if a unit that had been stood empty for 5 years could be turned into a climbing centre that would employ 5 people and possibly turn into something larger!

The big day came and I stood alone in the empty unit armed with enlarged pictures, a 5 page presentation and a speech fit to make the queen proud. I waited and waited, mobiles phones were newish but not quite Star Trek. I checked my brick very 5 minutes but to no avail.

 I’d boiled the kettle, lined the cups up, placed the milk into a nice jug, moved the handles towards the door, removed the spider from the window and eventually 2.5 hours after the agreed rendezvous a bus pulled up outside the unit. My heart skipped a beat, this was it, my life depended on this, already feeling a failure I needed to prove to myself than I could turn my life around and help other people in the process.

 25 bound documents in my arms ready to convince the Council of Sefton that I meant business, I stood tall, took a deep breath and watched eagerly as one party member departed the bus and headed towards my door. A quick tie straiten and ‘BAM’ the door opens I thrust my hand out to welcome the person that’s about to introduce the council delegates on the bus to me and…… the words fall out like soggy lettuce “the council representatives don’t deem it necessary to alight the bus Mr ……….. Douglas”. Let’s just say that I practiced a little bit of restraint and passed the documents onto this bearer of ? and kindly asked him to hand them out to the cautious council sat on their warm dry bus.

After the bus departed my mixed emotions ran wild. I didn’t know whether to run amok or curl up and cry. For the last six months I’d put everything on the line to prove to myself that I wasn’t a failure that I thought my little girl was going to grow up thinking I was. This was my chance to prove to a few people that I could make a difference and in return my life would turn around and I could go forth and stand proud again.