Gary 'Smiler' Turner's Blog

My personal website is, and check out my book "No Worries" on Amazon here

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Brecon Beacons Ultra Marathon December 2013

I had put kickboxing pads into the foot wells of my truck to create a level floor with the seats, and laid down the blankets to form dog beds. My little husky Max curled up beside me on the passenger seat. I rolled my chair back and pulled the sleeping bag over me. My big husky Harley settled into the rear seats and popped his head on my shoulder. Now, if only that damn owl would stop being so noisy we could have got some sleep…

That was how I spent the night before the race. Cuddled up in my truck with the huskies keeping me warm. At 5am the first cars started to appear in the car park, waking everyone who were sleeping in their vehicles and camper vans. The day had started, the race was on.

I emerged from the truck at 6am and took the huskies for a little walk, letting them stretch their legs. More hardened racers were starting to accumulate, the bobbing of head torches lighting up the pretty village of Talybont. I popped the huskies into the truck, popped to the race centre for my morning’s ‘activities’ and to brush my teeth, and then it was final preparation time. I fed the dogs some sausages, and I had a few hard boiled eggs. I don’t run well on food, so it was just a light snack to put something in my stomach.

Getting changed I had my first problem. I knocked the water bowl over on my race shorts. I laughed. Wet shorts in the cold were going to be the least of my worries – I had 42 miles across the Brecon Beacon mountain range to come, and the terrain is horrendous – there is a big reason why they are used for Special Forces training!

The racers accumulated at 0715 for the race talk, but I couldn’t hear. Max was whining with excitement. Sorry about that everyone! We then walked towards the start and then yes! Success! I picked up the deposit and placed it in the bin at the start line. One less weight to carry round – yes, us canicrossers pick up after our dogs even when racing.

I had a strategy for the start. Having run this race last year I knew my huskies would go off like a rocket, so I aligned myself to the right side of the pack to keep clear of everyone as much as possible.

Suddenly we were off – a sharp turn to the right, and then the first climb, a long gradual constant one. The huskies were on form and provided the only effortless part of the race for me. Storming through on the right side of the runners, they effortlessly pulled me up. Many commented “that’s cheating!” as I eased effortlessly past – yet they didn’t understand what was to come!

I was well placed for the first downhill across the fields. My quads quickly burned on the descent as with every step I had to brake the huskies. Everything I gained going up is lost and more going downhill as the huskies continue to pull. Last year I was pulled over at least 50 times. I was looking for an improvement on that! I used ‘fast feet’, short steps, and had better footwear this year – the Vivobarefoot Neo Trails, worn straight out of the box, were providing lovely grip and were really comfortable.

I made the first stile in a little gap between the other runners, and quickly hoisted the huskies over. I’d trained them for robustness on landing the other side! The stiles on the course were a pain – only a few actually had dog access and the rest I had to lift a 30kg and 25kg pair of huskies over. I also had to wait at times to ensure I didn’t hold up the other runners. (Thanks have to go to the people who helped me too – especially the lady on about mile 35 who held onto them when the stile was too high, and it was easier to slip them under the fence.)

The weather was unseasonably warm, and the huskies had gone off pulling with all their might. Max was starting to suffer, and started to lag a little. This was worrying as he had a long way to go! I HAVE to put the dog’s safety and health first. I carried on, yet Max was worrying me. Harley was as dependable as usual, the perfect lead dog in every respect. He was going just fine and loving it. Max just looked a little uncertain.

Max hanging back taking it easy, not working at all now. Harley still in front though checking out the sheep!

A little incident then happened with a farmer in his van on a tight bit of single track. Coming up behind us he didn’t slow to let us get to safety. The dogs jumped out of the way just in time yet my elbow bounced off the side of the truck. A few minutes later he was parked up unloading straw bales. As I approached I shouted “excuse me Sir, I understand you have a job to do, but next time please wait until everyone can get out of your way.” I guess it is lucky that I don’t speak Welsh. I got a nice little tirade of language. I thought about asking what the Welsh was for “tosser”, yet the race was more important.

Max continued to look and act tired and retirement for him was a growing concern. Fortunately the lovely Claire O’Brian, running the support vehicle for some other canicrossers, had offered to be support for mine too if they needed it. I was seriously thinking of letting Max spend the race curled up in her vehicle. Yet he continued to put one paw in front of the other. We were now running at Max’s pace.

The first third of the race was out of the way, including some punishing climbs and horrible downhills. Most of the climbs are too steep or too boggy/treacherous/rocky for the huskies to offer any assistance. I was feeling good. The temperature seemed to drop again and the long exposed ridge run through the bogs was surprisingly fun. Max was hanging in there. 

Powering through the bogs (Max back on form!)

 The forest section I really took my time. There were several reasons. This is the middle section of the race and I wanted to ensure that I was fresh for Pen Y Fan and what comes beyond. I allowed Max to completely recharge and he munched on some sausages to give him some energy. It also gave me a chance to change my running gait because I didn’t want to get cramps – which are a neurological ‘trip up’ from fatigue and nothing to do with the popular myth about hydration and electrolytes. I took on board some of my flapjacks, and like an idiot I managed to drop the entire pack somewhere leaving me without any food – what a muppet!

Pen Y Fan soon loomed and I was ready. The race route is straight up the steepest path. But my secret weapon was there – the cafĂ© shack at the bottom was open! I grabbed an ‘emergency’ Crunchie and got a ‘special’ cup of coffee – two heaped teaspoons of coffee, two of sugar, half of hot water, half of milk. It. Tasted. Delicious!

As the caffeine and warmth started to spread I began the horrible climb. Pen Y Fan is not an easy climb at the best of times. Yet try doing a marathon distance over mountains first. It saps the legs. Harley and Max were being pains, pulling me left and right as they were getting some smells in, and trying to pull me after grazing sheep on the mountainside. Putting one foot in front of the other, and being a complete moaner all the way up like an irritable teenager, I was there. Result. Now to face my nemesis – the descent from Pen Y Fan. 

Last year I went over a good 25 times coming down. The huskies pulling hard, me trying to brake, failing, and crashing hard. This time I was ready. New shoes. Better grip. Faster feet and better technique. Better strategy. Coffee inside me. Time to go for it!

IT ROCKED! What a completely awesome descent! Max was back and rocking. Harley was excited at the sheep yet kept on task – a miracle in itself! I only went over once on some granite, cutting my legs quite nicely to give me some war wounds. Not enough to warrant patching up, I slowed the blood to a trickle, and smiled. Picked myself up and back on the run. I over took loads of runners on the way down and finally felt what it must be like to be a fell runner at full speed. Brilliant, brilliant, fun. I charged into the checkpoint arms wide shouting “yeeeeeeeeeeesssss!”

I knew I had it in the bag. Around 11 miles to go. Ahead of time. Every flat stretch of terrain I eased into technique allowing my heels to lift and my heels to turn in a circle, relaxing into it. The downhills I started speeding up, trusting my new found technique. I know I was going around 7-minute mile pace where the terrain allowed.

The river crossing was fun, and the huskies took on more water. I was running with a fully loaded race pack carrying all mine and their emergency equipment and spares, and had two front-mounted 750ml water bottles for me, that I kept regularly filled to the top. I was running with a pack that weighed around 12kg. The huskies took water on board from mud, from puddles, and from the rivers and mountain streams.

The last checkpoint was passed and the team powered on. Taking the middle section easy allowed me to have lots in reserve. So did the huskies. We were rocking. The last 6 miles passed fast, even with the head torches on as darkness descended, and only one comical incident.

Crossing one of the stiles there were around 100 sheep the other side. I hoisted the huskies over, told them to wait, and started to climb over. No chance. Harley charged for the sheep and I got flipped over the top of the stile and dragged along. I recovered, shook Harley by the scruff of his neck to snap him out of ‘prey mode’ and with him back ‘on task’ the going was good once more.

The course was brilliantly marked, even in the dark, and soon the finishing line was in sight. Passing the finishing line was fantastic, the people cheering me on taking the time out to get out in the cold and give support. Thank you! I registered my number, bent over and turned my head torch off, and went straight in and put my food order on. Two big fat chef’s best burgers each for the husky and one in a bun with all the trimmings for me. I slipped out of my race pack and collapsed against the wall. The huskies lay down beside me with their happy faces on.

Might Contain Nuts Brecon Beacons 42miles Ultra Marathon – DONE!

So that’s my experience, hopefully it will inspire you to get out and put one foot in front of the other and enjoy running. I’ll follow this blog up with some more, lessons learnt and how I knocked nearly 1.5hrs off my previous year’s time, and an important blog on how I have been recovering. I’m nearly there now. Just got the deep pains from my quads to ease….

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Drug hit without the drugs...

I use many methods, including hypnosis, and without drugs, to induce a 'drug hit' with my subjects.

In performance the reasons are obvious. Yet there are also a whole host of therapeutic approaches that this can be used with too.

How does it work?

Most drugs people take, pharmaceutical or recreational, don't actually do anything to us. Rather, it's what we do in reaction to them. We react in their presence. Once someone has a reference experience their physiology and psychology has the memory of what to do.

By driving the imagination we can create the drug hit 'in vitro'. In other words, we guide the mind, and the mind and body create the effects. With me guiding the experience we can also 'refine' it, intensify it, weaken it, remove the bad bits, and increase the good. This is not just the mind imagining the effects - the effects are real.

This means that the drug hit can be created and intensified even more than taking the actual drug, and can be done without any of the side effects.

Whilst I have used these approaches many times in performance work, and for great effect (and very carefully incorporated and applied and for specific reasons) in therapy, I am now wondering how this can be applied in the field of medicine.

Most medical professionals would say only a fool would ignore the placebo effect - it forms part of every medical approach - our psychology creates it. This blog describes an extension of the placebo effect.

Placebos have been given instead of actual painkillers, to no less effect. This has even worked with 'nocebo's' - where the subject knows they are taking a placebo. My thoughts are this can be taken further.

I wonder if one day hypnosis will be used instead of taking drugs for a wide range of conditions - just by recreating the effects of the drugs through the psych?

Just putting something out there for people, especially medical practitioners and other hypnotists, to ponder on.

Monday, 2 December 2013

Final Phase Ultra Marathon Training

Here is the second part of this year’s Ultra Marathon training, taking me into the final preparation stages. The first part of this blog can be found here:

At the end of the blog you’ll find my daily and weekly mileages so you can see exactly what I have done. It starts with week 11, and, well, not a lot happens! Week 10 was 61.5miles and I start week 11 with a 17 mile hill run over Watership Down. I then do nothing, having flown to Palma for a week of rest and recovery with the wife. 

This recovery week is a key part of my preparation. All the little physical niggles clear up. My body has time to completely repair itself from all the increases in mileage. My endocrine system gets a chance to make the adjustments it needs. And most importantly, my mind gets a recharge. 

My huskies were on a rest week too, in some really good kennels, letting their bodies make the same adjustments mine are, and allowing them a change in environment to recharge their minds as well.

At this stage in my training the 42miles distance will be easy – the mountains, less so. Following this rest week the key parts of my training are getting further hill conditioning under my feet, testing kit and its configurations, and working hard on getting the huskies and me working as a team. 

All of my second daily runs have been in the dark. I love running in the dark with my head torch, huskies enjoying the different smells, sounds and animals. It is great proprioception training for my feet – especially when going fast. My Judo back ground came in handy too with me taking a couple of fast tumbles and my breakfalls saving my body from damage, usually stubbing my toes on tree roots. 

Here’s what I look like in my kit. Emergency kit in the back and everything I need for quick access in the front.

 To achieve this I continued with my back-to-back training, running twice daily, to ensure I am used to running on tired legs. Almost every shorter run has become a speed session. I’ve been getting good fartleks and sustained speed work in. 

This week I started with another 17 miles over Watership Down. I love this run as it has some nice big and sustained hills, and it is over varied terrain. There are also about 5miles of running on tarmac which have been conditioning my feet to the hard surface – I run in barefoot shoes offering no cushioning. 

This pic gives you an idea of the fantastic terrain at Watership Down. I’ve climbed to the ridge and am now following the ridge along, the picture taken back along the path I’ve just come. The picture makes it look so much flatter than it is!

My race is on Saturday – 42 miles across the Brecon Beacons. So I’m resting today, will do a little run tomorrow and Thursday to keep my legs turning over, and the rest of it will be rest. I won’t be changing my food at all, still just listening to my body. (I’ll do another blog post on the vastly mis-understood ‘carb loading’ another time – in most cases it isn’t effective.) The husky diet changes though – they’ll be going onto raw fatty beef from tomorrow. It is like rocket fuel for them. After a few days on this they’ll be fully energised up enough to run – and run HARD – for around 120miles without needing food nor water. Damn. I wish I was a husky…

I’ll post up my race report following the event – see you on the other side!

Week 11 10th Nov
Sunday                                 17
Monday                               0
Tuesday                               0
Wednesday                        0
Thursday                             0
Friday                                    0
Saturday                              0              17 miles

Week 12 17th Nov
Sunday                                 0
Monday                               5 + 4.5
Tuesday                               15 + 2.5
Wednesday                        8.5 + 2.5
Thursday                             4.5 + 4.5
Friday                                    3.5
Saturday                              0              50.5 miles

Week 13 24th Nov
Sunday                                 17
Monday                               10 + 4.5
Tuesday                               4.5 + 2.5
Wednesday                        7 + 3.5
Thursday                             2.5 +3.5
Friday                                    0
Saturday                              0              55 miles
Week 14 1st December
Sunday                                 17

Friday, 29 November 2013

Vitamin C Supplements - Should We?

I am not a fan of supplements. Instead I prefer to promote having a healthy balanced nutrition from whole food sources. Some people may benefit from food supplementation under medical supervision if they have a medical condition that requires it. I do feel that too many people just take too many supplements without realising what it is they are taking, why they are taking them, and the effects that the supplements have on the body. 

In this blog I’m going to take a quick look at vitamin and mineral supplements and in particular vitamin C. 

We can get all the vitamins and minerals we need from a healthy diet from whole food sources. Even for athletes supplementation for these is not really necessary. On a recent sports physiology course Mark Hargreaves, Professor of Physiology at the University of Melbourne said "If you take vitamins and minerals, one daily multi-vit is the most you should take unless under medical supervision." 

Vitamin C has many uses inside the body. It promotes a healthy immune system, increases absorption of iron in plant foods, and helps make collagen for wound healing. Too little vitamin C can lead to a condition known as scurvy. We only need about 90mg a day for the efficient working of our bodies. (Source: University of Melbourne)

This isn’t actually very much. 100g of broccoli will provide this for you, as will a large orange. It is quite simple to get all the vitamin C you need from a diet that contains a little fruit and vegetables.

Looking at further evidence for the uses of vitamin C Dr Nicholas Vardaxis (University of Melbourne) tells us that vitamin C from fruit and vegetable sources (not from supplements) is associated with prevention of lung, breast and colon cancers. He says that the reduced oxidative damage from taking the right amount of vitamin C from fruit and vegetable sources (again, not from supplements) is associated with a lower risk of heart disease, and it may prevent the advancement of age related macular degeneration. This is all achieved from a diet getting you the recommended daily intake of around 90mg a day. 

So why take the supplements for Vitamin C? Many people are of the psychology that “if a little is good for you, then a lot is better”. Unfortunately this isn’t true when it comes to vitamins and minerals. Take too much and it can create toxic conditions in the body.

Yet at this time of year many people supplement their diet with vitamin C pills and powders as it is popular to think that it fights the common cold. Interestingly science says that it does not affect the risk of catching a cold, though may reduce the severity and the length of a cold, presumably by helping the immune system work as it should. 

Vitamin C is a water soluble vitamin, and as such, if we take too much the excess is passed in our urea. Yet the processing of excess vitamin C comes with problems. The European Food Standards Agency (EFSA) state that if you take too much vitamin C then “acute gastrointestinal intolerance (e.g., abdominal distension, flatulence, diarrhoea, transient colic) is the most clearly defined adverse effect”.

In other words, if you take too much vitamin C, welcome to having bad guts. 

How much is too much? The EFSA state that at intakes above 1g/day there is “an increased risk of adverse gastrointestinal effects” and that “acute gastrointestinal effects may occur at higher intakes (3-4 g/day)”. They tell us that taking supplementary vitamin C of up to 1g is “not associated with adverse gastrointestinal effects”. 

To summarise, 90mg/day is all that is required, taking up to 1g/day is probably OK, anything over 1g/day and there is an increased risk of having bad guts. 

I decided to look at some popular supplements of Vitamin C in a pure form. Let’s take a look at Holland and Barrett’s Pure Vitamin C Powder (

They recommend “take 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoonful daily” with ½ teaspoon providing “2,500mg” of vitamin C, which they also say is “3,125%” of the daily recommended allowance. So, with anything over 1g/day increasing your risk of adverse gastrointestinal effects here they are advising you to take 2.5g/day. If you take vitamin C supplementation and suffer from bad guts or even IBS – I wonder if the supplementation is causing this?

Hopefully this has got you thinking a little. In conclusion to this post, I would remind you of Mark Hargreaves quote from earlier:

 "If you take vitamins and minerals, one daily multi-vit is the most you should take unless under medical supervision."

Thursday, 31 October 2013

Ultra Marathon Training 2013

Hard work braking the huskies running downhill

Last year I completed my first Ultra-marathon – 42 miles across the Brecon Beacons. I trained for it, I prepared, and I suffered! Of all the ultra-marathons to choose I selected one that even hardened ultra-runners were saying was one of the toughest they had done!

To give you an idea, in training I had completed a 30mile cross country run in just over 5 ½ hours over my local military ground. On the Brecons I was only on mile 18 at the 6hr mark…I found out the hard way why the UK Special Forces uses this terrain for training purposes, the terrain is TOUGH! 

I wrote the foreword to Adam Eason’s excellent book ‘Hypnosis For Running’, ( which will tell you more about my exploits on this race. (While you are at it, take a look at my book, No Worries and, thanks!)

I run with my two huskies as a team – yet don’t think they help! The uphills in this race are too steep for them to pull, the ground terrain on the flats too treacherous, and they pull me on the downhills necessitating me braking on every step. They actually are a hindrance on the Brecons!

I absolutely loved the race last year. So much that I have entered again this year, and I’m looking forward to 42 miles across Welsh Mountains on 7th December in whatever weather conditions are thrown at me. I reviewed the training I did last year and have learnt from the experience. This blog will break down what I am doing currently to make the race easier and even more enjoyable.

I learnt so much from last year. Firstly, whatever running I get in won’t be enough. So I have looked to increase my mileage to get as much running under my feet as I possibly could. To achieve this I start each week’s running on a long run. I then have been running ‘back to back’ which is running on consecutive days. As my conditioning increased I’ve been running twice a day. I’ve also looked to completing as many miles each week as I can. I allow myself 48hrs rest and recovery to allow my smooth and cardiac muscles to rest a little, and allow ‘adaptation’ to take place. 

I’ve been listening to my body and so far it’s been in good shape! I recently did a 75mile week that started with a 28mile run, so followed this with relaxing back into an easy 33mile week to allow me to recover. 

Continually running these high mileages is now allowing my endocrine system to adjust. It now knows what I am putting my body through and is adjusting my hormones and my metabolism to suit.
We run as a team. The selected pace matches the team. If the huskies are slow, then I go slowly. If the huskies are fast, I go fast. I just let the ‘run’ dictate the pace – it is never planned in advance. That way I don’t sweat about things like time. In fact, apart from checking the time when I leave and when I come back that’s the only time reference I use. I don’t carry a watch. 

Mentally I am getting stronger and stronger when running – which is the main aim of all of my preparation.  I can stay focused and positive for longer. I can maintain my running form much better. 

I’ve been experimenting with food. I have enough energy stored in my body to last nearly 1,000miles, and the trick is to allow my body to access that fuel source. In order for this to take place I need to run in the ‘fat burning zone’, which can be described as a pace where I can hold a conversation while running. I’ve experimented with various food sources while running and have settled on honey flapjacks. Normally, taking on carbs will produce an insulin spike which inhibits fat burning. Yet for some reason I only get a positive response from the flapjacks, so they’re staying.
I haven’t changed my diet at all during this race preparation. I still eat when hungry, and listen to my body. I haven’t been eating more food, nor have I been losing weight. I’ve stayed the same weight. I can only assume my thyroid has down-regulated my metabolism when I am not running.
 Reservoir crossing

I’ve been running with the WAA Ultra Equipment ULTRABAG MDS 20L Pack ( and it is simply superb. The configuration I am using is with the water bottles mounted on the front giving me 1.5litres total fluid. It is very comfortable and has lots of front access which is important to me with the huskies. It also means that in the rear of the rucksack will just be the equipment I need only in an emergency – the medi-kit, space blanket, spare clothes, waterproof leggings and so on. All of my running is done with this pack loaded with race equipment to get used to the weight and pack. 

My footwear has been rotating between three pairs of Vivobarefoot Neo Trails. These are exceptionally good – light, barefoot style, just not hard wearing enough for the amount of miles I do! They have traction in all but the muddiest of terrain. I’m expecting to go over a few times during the race yet far less than last year! I’ll need to buy a ‘race-pair’ as my three will be a little worn come race day. Fortunately they fit my Barney Rubble feet perfectly right out of the box and won’t need wearing in. 

Here’s an important one that is worth mentioning! On a 10-12hr race I will quite probably need to go to the loo – both kinds! So I’ve been practicing, and have a system of the huskies sitting patiently while I go. I do however need a tree to lean back on, so I can ‘go’ without needing to take off the rucksack!

Downhill again!

I have been injury free over my training with just the odd twinge here and there. I pay attention to this with my running style, ‘listening’ to my body. I do not warm up. I do not cool down. I have not needed massages. I have not had DOMS. I just run.
With only a few weeks to go I’m looking to do some hard running, before cutting back on the miles the last three weeks to ensure that my body recovers nicely to adapt and be strong for the race.
Here’s where I am so far in my training. All of the miles have been cross country over as varied terrain as possible.

Week 1 25th Aug
Sunday 9miles
Monday 9
Tuesday 5
Wednesday 5
Thursday 4.5
Friday 2.3
Saturday 0              Total 33.5miles

Week 2 1st Sep
Sunday 16
Monday 9
Tuesday 3.5
Wednesday 5
Thursday 5
Friday 3.5
Saturday  0              Total 42miles

Week 3 8th Sep
Sunday 7 + 10
Monday 9 + 3.5
Tuesday 6 + 3.5
Wednesday 4.5 + 2.5
Thursday 3.5 + 2.5
Friday 0
Saturday 0              Total 52miles

Week 4 15th Sep              
Sunday 21
Monday 7 + 7
Tuesday 3.5 + 2.5
Wednesday 4.5 + 2.5
Thursday 3.5 + 2.5
Friday 0
Saturday 0                              Total 54miles

Week 5 22nd Sep
Sunday 23           (4hrs)
Monday 9 + 4.5
Tuesday 7
Wednesday 4.5 + 2.5
Thursday  4.5
Friday 0
Saturday 0              Total 55miles

Week 6 29th Sep
Sunday 25           (4hrs)
Monday 7
Tuesday 4.5 + 3.5
Wednesday 5 + 2.5
Thursday 3.5
Friday 0
Saturday 0              51miles

Week 7 6th Oct
Sunday  25           (4hrs)
Monday 7
Tuesday 4.5 + 5
Wednesday 3.5 + 2.5
Thursday  3.5
Friday   0
Saturday0              51miles

Week 8 13th Oct
Sunday 28
Monday 7 + 5
Tuesday 4.5 +3.5
Wednesday 7 + 2.5                  
Thursday 9 + 3.5
Friday 5
Saturday 0              75 miles

Week 9 20th Oct
Sunday 9
Monday  10
Tuesday 5
Wednesday 4.5                         
Thursday 3.5
Friday  0
Saturday 0              33 miles

Week 10 27th Oct
Sunday 23
Monday 8.5 + 2.5
Tuesday 7 + 3.5
Wednesday 7.5 + 2.5              
Thursday 4.5 +2.5
Friday  0
Saturday  0              61.5 miles