Tuesday, 31 May 2011

That is all.

So, been quiet running times over here. Was feeling great, strong, etc, and then just got completely exhausted. I think a big part of it was looking after my beautiful wife while she was out of sorts; getting up early, running, taking her tea in bed, walking the dog, sorting breakfast, working a full day, making sure she got lunch and all the drinks etc she needed, shopping for the evening meal, cooking it, washing up, doing laundry, cleaning etc… It wore me down! Luckily, by the end of the week she was feeling much stronger, though she's still pretty tired. She's just looking forward to running now, I think, though that's at least a week away if not more.

So, I got knackered, and having done a couple of nice runs early last week, then didn't do a thing exercise-wise at all. In fact, I spent the weekend on the piss, which was fun. I managed to finish all my work on Friday, so had a few beers that night, then Saturday did a TON of housework (including vacuuming the entire house)… then got really quite drunk, had an exchange of views with an outspoken (in a big way. At 1:30am. Outside my house. Which is next to an old folks' home) 'woman', then Sunday… Lazy day, curry in the evening, lots of beer and chat, a lovely night.

Monday, no idea what we did. Not much though. And today, ran for the first time since last Tuesday. It partly sucked, until a few miles in then I loosened up and enjoyed myself. I only did around 5 miles. I'll do the same again in the morning because I'm hoping to run a minimum of five miles every day this week (excepting hungover Monday). The complication is, tomorrow I fly out to Spain for a few days, then back to the UK overnight, then fly out to Macau on Saturday overnight.

So, how the fuck do you pack for two wildly disparate locations? Here's my tip: take an absolutely fucking huge suitcase.

I'll be here all week.

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

A week off.

That's what I just had from running, a week off. I dreamt about it while I was not doing it, and had a silly amount of energy. Just as well, as my wife had an operation last week so our superteam was out of action for a wee while. She's on her feet and everything now, and seems really well, but a general anaesthetic really does take it out of you, for days afterward.

I ran yesterday and did a small but quick (for me) three-miler (about 32 minutes, I think. I forgot my watch, but did ask someone what the time was shortly after stopping! It's an imprecise science. Sue me.); I struggled a little, but then I had set off quite fast. That happens, I find, when I've not run for a while. When I get back out there, I go a bit mad.

Today I did somewhere between 5 and 5.5 miles, and it was very good indeed. It was also quicker than usual, and I thoroughly enjoyed every bit of it. The music was most excellent, the weather was sunny with a strong wind, and I kept thinking "Light comes first, fast follows". It changes the way my foot falls, for some reason, and I start to strike midfoot and my turnover increases. Strange but fun.

What else is there? I'm planning a work trip shortly, which involves a few days in Spain, then five days in Macau. Running in Spain is generally very nice indeed, but Macau, being in the tropics and on the edge of rainy season, is a tad humid (95% when I was there last year), so it can be a struggle. I'll still be out there doing it, though. Dagnabbit. Does mean I have to pack enough stuff for 10 days, plus my running stuff, and work clothes. That's a lot of shizzle, people.

Enough of my burble. Off for a haircut.

Friday, 20 May 2011

Arm wallets are all bastards

Yes they are, you read it here first.

I bought an arm wallet while I was in Vegas last year, and it's been great. I wear it, unsurprisingly, while running, and I keep stuff in it. Key, lip balm, Kendal Mint Cake, that kind of stuff. I had thought that I had perhaps picked up a child's size as I can't even get the fucker past my elbow; perhaps a woman's size, I don't know.

Turns out no, it's a one-size-fits-all. It also turns out that what I thought were fairly normal sized arms, aren't. I know I'm strong and everything, but mostly that's through the shoulders and legs. Well, turns out my arms are apparently fucking huge, because I tried on an arm wallet today, one for a smartphone or similar, and it just didn't work. It was at least an inch away from the Velcro even touching slightly when it was on my bicep.

Of course, this means I am incredibly manly and everything, which is good. But it also means arm wallets stay on my forearm only, which is… annoying.

So, to summarize, arm wallets are all bastards. That is all.


When I quit smoking, nearly seven years ago, I did it by simple reasoning. I knew I wanted to stop, so I just had to work out how to do it and make my self strong enough to not go back to it. I had to retrain myself.

When I decided I really wanted to stop, I continued to smoke heavily for a further four months. Why? So I would become sick of it. I actually forced myself to smoke! On my 30th birthday, I near-chain-smoked from when I got up, to when I went to bed - and I got horribly drunk into the bargain. This worked on a bunch of levels. A horrific hangover meant I didn't want to smoke the next day, my first day of quitting - and it was bad enough that the second day didn't see much need for a cigarette, either. After getting past the tough third day, I set about re-educating myself, doing all of the things I had done while smoking, while not smoking. So I went to my favourite pub, had lots of beer, watched football. All while feeling strong, knowing it would be a difficult thing to do, and so learning that I can do it without smoking. No more coffee, I had quit that a few months earlier - no caffeine at all, in fact* - and making sure that I knew when my willpower would be low, so I could counter it.

It worked - seven years on and not a single cigarette, not a single inhalation. But applying the same thing to beer... I just can't work out what my trigger is, whether it is emotional, environmental, a combination of lots of things; I can't work out what makes me simply want a beer. I can go for a week without, no problem, then suddenly, I don't just want one, I want eight. I know the lunar cycle is a trigger, but apart from that, I have no idea at all. I'm struggling with it, I can't work it out and that annoys me.


* Not even chocolate. Had a bad reaction to it after years of way, way too much coffee, thanks to work. Gah. I miss the coffee most of all**.

**Or maybe the Scarecrow. Maybe I'll miss him most of all.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Race Report: Hereford Half Marathon

I didn't think I would be doing anything in this stylee when I started this blog, but here we are. I'm borrowing somewhat from Katie's super-blog, Run This Amazing Day - and you might realise how much when you see my picture poses! This will also be the first time my purdy face has appeared in a blog as far as I can remember... Girls, you'd better hang on to your boyfriends*.

So, the Hereford Half Marathon. It's held less than 30 miles from where I live and when I looked at the course map, I noticed that I only recognised 'Hereford' on it. No idea where the rest of the race was, didn't know a single place name. This could be fun I thought. And so it turned out.

I felt pretty good going into the race, but a little tired after a big night on the piss on Friday celebrating WonderWife's birthday. The sky was clear blue when I woke up, but when I got back from walking the dog, it had clouded over and cooled down. I still packed three cartons of pre-mixed Dioralyte and a sachet to go in my arm wallet though. The London Marathon taught me that much, that I can get outrageously – dangerously – dehydrated in less than seven miles.

So, we went to the race start, and there were lots and lots of people milling around. Lots of beautiful people, that is. Slim, tall, athletic looking… Oh, and me:

Looking good, I'm sure you will agree. And already a bit red in the face, despite not having done any running yet.

Anyway, the race started, I was right at the back because I was too short to actually see where the start line was. Turns out it wasn't far away, I just followed all the other runners and there it was. My lovely wife and MegaDog waved me off.

The course started up a hill (and on that hill were my friends Beccy and Iain, who had come across the country to support me, which was pretty cool! The main reason for doing the race was to support the hospice where Beccy's father had died a few months ago, and we raised £520 for them in just a few weeks. Woo hoo!), then took a left, and went up another fucking hill. This set a pattern for the rest of the race, hill after hill - some quick, some long and slow, and some barely recognisable as such until you thought 'Hang on, if this is flat, why am I knackered?'

The route quickly took us out of town, on to quiet country roads on a Sunday morning with thick grey cloud overhead. Perfect running conditions, pretty much. But the aim for me was just to finish, as I'd only run short distances post-London - and of course, London was only four weeks ago.

I was easing around, gradually loosening up, when my nasty habit kicked in. Sometimes I slow down to gee up runners who look like they might be struggling. Just a quick chat, and a 'you're doing great'; a bit of distraction usually works nicely. I ended up spending a couple of miles running with a lady called Katy, who was running her first half marathon, and she was struggling a bit. She had to stop with a stitch, so I carried on, but she caught up when I stopped to mix a Dioralyte. The last I saw of her was around mile 7, when she stopped on an unpleasant hill and I kicked on.

I also chatted to a lady called Laura, who had struggled with training because she had children. She really wasn't happy, but we put a mile in together, and I know she finished. She just had that kind of grit about her.

Anyway, what's to tell? None of the roads were closed and they were quiet country roads on the whole, so you always had to keep an eye out for cars. The route was pretty hilly to say the least, but I like that much more than running on flat. On flat courses, my hips get tight and my feet hurt, because they are always basically in the same position. Not so with hills, my ankles, knees and hips are constantly moving and changing, not to mention my feet. It just works for me, not least because where I live is 100 per cent hills.

Miles 8-10 were probably the best. I saw my wife and friends just after mile 6, mile seven I caught up with Katy, then miles 8-10 I passed a fuckload of people. Very comfortably, too. I was slaying those young, fit striplings on the hills. What made me chuckle inside was when they then tried to overtake me; I wasn't racing them, I was racing myself. They seemed to take it personally, in some cases, which makes it even more amusing. Of course, I know some people use it as a motivation to kick on themselves, and you can end up overtaking and being taken over for miles. That just bores me. So on I went, and saw WonderWife again on 10 miles, which was perfect. Another pick-me-up from the guys, another Dioralyte, and off I went to the finish.

It wasn't an easy race, but it was very enjoyable, and incredibly scenic. Because there were not many spectators, it being through countryside, unlike London you were able to get some banter going with people watching. I saw one guy four times, and by the end he had nicknamed me 'Cutie'. You get the idea.

I had it in mind to try to beat my half marathon PB. I don't know why, I just did. That was 2:08.39, set six years ago. This is only my third half marathon though, and I am six years older. Then I thought, wouldn't it be nice to have a half marathon time that is under the full marathon world record (2:03.59)? And it would, but Sunday was not the day I got either of those things.

The last three miles felt a little slow, though I averaged a 10-minute mile throughout which I'm reasonably pleased with. I'd rather be consistent than fast, for reasons I don't understand.

I came on to the Hereford race course for the last tiny bit of the race. I could see the finish line, and I knew I'd run 13 miles for the first time in what felt like an age. I can't count London in that, because it was so shite for me as a race. It had been probably two months, and I had begun to doubt whether I could do it. Way to validate, dude.

As I geared up for a big sprint finish - yes, really - I saw Beccy and her young son (I think he's four) running toward the end of the crowds, to run in with me, but I was gone by then - I did see them try to keep up, but I flew in. Well, it felt like I did. In reality, I may have jiggled, wobbled, and hobbled. Who knows?

Beccy came over as soon as I had stepped off the course. "You made that look so easy! And we couldn't even keep up at the end!" I got a big hug from her and an even bigger thank you, which was cool. Then WonderWife turned up, as she'd had trouble with traffic and had missed my grandstand finale. Disaster! But the huge smile on her face, and the licks from our lovely dog, made it all just fine. Oh, and I looked GREAT.

I'm pretty sure that arm wallet should go on my bicep, but it doesn't fit even when it's not done up. I think I may have bought a women's size by mistake.

To summarize: I had a great time, did some good for a great charity, and I'm actually fine with my 2:13 time (2:14 officially, but as I was at the back of the pack I didn't cross the line for a while and it wasn't chip timed… You hear me).

It's all good, dawg.

* That's a Daffy Duck quote, that is.

Thursday, 12 May 2011

A mostly dry week.

Well, so far. Not had any alcohol at all, since Saturday night. That's fine, it's not been difficult, and I've had a couple of really excellent runs too. Win-win.

Yesterday I did a ten-miler to remind my body that I can run in double digits, and it went really well. Hard, as I'd not done anything like that for nearly a month at the marathon, but good. I'm ready to do 13.1 this weekend, and maybe even shave a little bit off my PB (first half marathon, 2:08. Second half marathon, 2:40-something, cos I got hurt!). I won't be going balls-out - this is a fundraiser for another hospice, one that my friend's dad died in a few months ago. I can run that far, so I'm doing it on their behalf; I'd be willing to bet they'll be doing it with me next year.

Tomorrow, we're going out to celebrate my wife's birthday (which is actually Tuesday, but as she's in hospital Monday and recovering for three weeks after that, we're going out Friday) and I will probably have several beers in good company, then spend tomorrow rehydrating ready for Sunday. It's a busy, busy few days for us. Plus I have deadlines etc on top of all that. Ho hum, it never rains etc.

I went to see the doctor this morning as I became a bit dizzy last night, and he said before I left that if I am running a lot, I need to take far better care of myself. I think he might be right.

Sunday, 8 May 2011

What kind, what kind...

I was thinking today, as I nursed a hangover on a walk with WonderWife and SuperDog in the countryside. I was musing to myself, as I was absolutely disgusted with the amount of beer I managed to put away last night. That might sound odd, as it was of course my choice. But my beer consumption has been alarming me lately, as I've been using it as a quick way to unwind, or to help me deal with the fucking lunar cycle (let's not go there this time; I'll explain that another day). I never used to drink at home, if I wanted to drink it had to be sociably. But since I got married, we have been drinking at home a lot, and it's become almost habitual. It's not every day by any means, but it's pretty frequent, and it's quite a lot - if I drink at home I will generally have around 8 cans of 4% alcohol lager, each can being 440ml.

Anyway, I digress. I was musing to myself as I watched my wife talk on the phone. I thought, what kind of person do I want to be? What do I want to be remembered as? There is every chance I will be remembered as a drunk - or rather, as a drinker. I'm not a sloppy drunk, not an angry one either. I'm very mellow. But do I want to be remembered with a pint glass in my hand? No, not really. Not at all, in fact.

So what kind of person do I want to be? I honestly do not know. I'm mostly happy with the person that I am. I'm quite relaxed, pretty good company, easygoing, blah blah blah.

I think what I am getting at is that I feel I am at a crossroads*. One way is drink and decadence, the other way is running and greater self-awareness. It genuinely feels like a choice. And frankly, I fucking love running so it's not that hard a choice - what scares me though is, what if I discover that need drink? That I might be an addict?

Last night I drank 12 cans of lager. I felt awful about it this morning. The hangover was fine, it wasn't bad in any way really. But I worried about the fact that I did it on my own. I watched TV with my dog, and got fucked-up drunk. That's not good, folks. Not good at all.

If I fill that void with running, swimming and more… I'd be absolutely terrified of getting injured. But hell, that's better than the alternative. So there you have it, there is my choice, that is the person I want to be. I want to be the person that raises their self-awareness and their awareness of the world around them through running; who helps their community by using their two legs, and their knowledge of past mistakes, to help others help that community**; who might even inspire others to do good in the world; who is happy, and content, and who sees the world as full of adventure and possibility; who gets off his arse and runs a minimum of four times a week, and who looks forward to each and every one. Who lives life and enjoys it, wakes up with a clear head and engages with the world fully, every day.

But who does all of this without being a big boring bastard.

*Of course, I am describing a fork in the road as there are only two choices... A crossroads would have three choices, assuming I came in by the fourth road.

** We raised over £2700 for our local hospice by 'running' the London Marathon; also, three members of everyone's favourite local punk band have applied to do it next year and I'm coaching them from scratch to make it to the finish line.