Monday, 31 December 2018

It's not just the bears.

Let me tell you a story. It's a tale of a ramshackle man, held together by bits of string and goodwill, trying to shift his arse and do some exercise. And it's the story of a poorly little puppy, who needed to be so worn out that she could rest. I mean, there are other characters, but let's keep it simple.
A short while ago, Fernster wanted a puppy. We'd lost Millie Dog, and she was upset, of course, so she went looking for pups, and found a very beautiful collie named Piglet on a nearby farm. Working stock on both sides, we knew she would take some exercise, but so does Farley, the huntaway. I was reticent, but Fern was insistent, so we got Piglet.

She settled in well, Farley loved her, but I realised very quickly that she was stone deaf. So we started working on how to get her to come to us, how to communicate etc.

It's gone well. She's a lovely dog, and the pair of them just love each other. She's going to be a great dog. Except… A few nights ago, she started with what I can only describe as 'episodes'; chasing things only she can see, and non-stop, all night, all day. Stopping only when she was too exhausted to continue, totally focussed on her mission. We thought, maybe she needs more time outside? More stimulation? Fernster started to blame herself, wondering if she could do more for her. A visit to the vet suggested it might be a psychological issue, and that such a thing is not uncommon in collies that suffer with deafness - it's just another congenital issue for them. At his request, I sent the vet a video, and he said yes, I believe that is a mental issue.

So, to give her some respite, she has been out a lot – 2-3 hours in the morning (and yes, I know she is very very young, but it's this or watch her burn herself out while literally bouncing off the walls and doors of the house), and another hour or so at night. Sometimes it has worked, sometimes not. She has had rectal valium (who knew that this was a thing?) which seemed to do absolutely fuck-all.

I digress. Last night, Fernster didn't feel great and I needed to run to maintain momentum. So I took Farley and Piggie to the woods, to run with me and a headtorch. It was pitch black out there, and silent except for myriad owls doing their call-and-return all around us. It was, in a word, awesome.

We set off. I didn't feel great, though I did feel strong; my stomach was going to give me a grief and I knew this. I had tried to go to the loo before I left, but nothing. A couple of minutes into the run, the only question was where would I shit, not if.

The run was great though. Ate the hills, had loads of power that was simply not there before. I know I have lost 30lbs or so, but I have run lighter than this and without this power. This is from the hip exercises I have been doing and I can seriously feel their value. I barely even felt the hills on the way out – it is more downhill than up, but the ups are pretty long and steep, yet they were no bother.

I passed what I knew was the last big-ish hill, and went on to the crossroads I was looking for, and I knew it was time. Luckily there were two posts with markings on to show which paths/walks you were on at that point, and they were squatting distance apart so I hung on and did the long drop.

Oh, the relief. But then, I thought, I have to run back to the car now, and even go into a shop... and there is absolutely nothing nearby that I can wipe with. Hmmmm.

Then I saw my saviour. And I can only say, little fella – thank goodness you dropped your glove that day on your family walk, I am forever grateful. Someone had thoughtfully put a child's glove on top of one of the posts (because yes, of course you're going to walk 1-2 miles up the woods to look for a small, mass-produced woolly glove), and it was moist from the earlier rain. In short, I had the perfect moist wipe. Perfection.

Of note here is that the run was slow, but effort was maintained; stats show that it took me 17.5 minutes to get to Poo Point, but only 18.5 minutes to run back, which features much longer, slower hills and is in fact mostly uphill. I am delighted with that. Average HR was 134, which is crazy until you see the breakdown is high 90s until the big hill, then in the low 150s for the uphill back. I guess that's why mean averages aren't used that much in sport. Even so, I'm happy with the whole thing.

Piggie was a joy to run with, as was Farley, and when they got home they both crashed out and Piggie slept most of the night. Tha'll do, Pig.

Oh, forgot to put this at the top: caution, possible TMI follows. There, that should do it.

Wednesday, 19 December 2018

I've been doing my exercises.

…but not in a way you could describe as fastidiously. I've seen two physios, one for my hip, another for my shoulder; both have given me exercises and both seem confident that this will sort my shit out.

The hip exercises have been interesting, not least because when I try to do the full set, it absolutely wrecks me. I did them conscientiously while in Vegas in October, and ended the week only just able to walk. Is this highlighting a greater weakness than I realised, or is it just too much on a weak muscle group? I've been breaking them down, doing most of them 3-4 times a week where I can rather than all of them daily. I can feel it is stronger, it's just a slow process. And I do wonder if my not having run since June might be part of the problem.

So I started running. 20 minutes on the road on Sunday afternoon; not fast, not pretty, but also, pleasantly, not difficult. Last night I did 25 minutes on the treadmill. I feel good, and my hip is certainly no worse because of it. No sign of gout or inflammation either in my foot. So far, so good.

Swimming* is still a no, but my shoulder is much better. Need to do those exercises a lot more than I have, the improvement is more obvious there. I suspect I will be back in the pool in the new year, just in time to meet all those fuckers who will try desperately hard to change their ways for a few weeks then give it up because, well, it's just too hard.

That sounded pretty cynical, but I've been a gym user for over 20 years and I see it every fucking year. They swarm to the gym in January, taking advantage of the gym's generous new year offer, designed of course to get those very people in. They work out like crazy for a couple of weeks, maybe a month, never to be seen again.

When I was taking running groups out, back in the day, I used to get people saying to me, 'I'd love to run but my knees won't let me'. Knowing full well they had never done any sport, and had no injuries (we are talking about people I have known most of my life), I would answer 'Why? They're practically brand new. It's not your knees that are the problem…'

I digress. It's going ok, so far. And on a zero carb diet – Fern still describes me as looking like I'm 'melting' – which is proving a fascinating experiment. I feel good, overall, and I'm enjoying the food. Sleeping fantastically, but that's nothing new. And exercise is absolutely fine so far. But in a week or so I will be able to go further, and we will see how I feel then, when the body is truly forced to feed on fat for immediate fuel. I'll let you know how that goes.

*Notice I haven't mentioned the bike. The plan is to get all-weather tires on, so I can start building some outdoor miles through winter when the roads are not frozen. I'll also be buying a cheap back tire for the turbo trainer for those days when it is frozen. But the bike has been the main funk casualty (a phrase I love, because it implies some kind of George Clinton rampage rather than me just feeling shitty), as it sits in the garage, still with the race numbers attached.

Tuesday, 20 November 2018

Shit, fuck, and shitting fuck.

I just can't... Get moving. Shoulder injury, hip injury, then more shoulder. Still in a funk, and it's one that I recognise exercise can help me out of.


Monday, 29 October 2018

Let's try that again.

So, yes. I had a post-race-disaster funk. I've not actually been on Wonderbike since. I've not run. I've not been in the pool.

Partly, this is because I switched to a zero-carb diet and it takes a little adjustment, but mostly, I have just had monkeys on my back and demons in my head.

A lack of activity in me can cause issues; I've had a few problems with my right hip (it's too flexible, there is some weakness in the muscles supporting the joint), and in my right shoulder (rotator cuff, which is a real pain when it comes to helping out with the kids). That kind of thing can stop you training too, but also highlight things you need to address and strengthen. So I've been working on them where possible, with more to come. I'm plotting and planning in my head, because things are, slowly, coming together.

Where do I begin?

Fernster believes I need to look for a different bike; she thinks the Specialized is too twitchy, too technical, and that I need something that will be forgiving and just let me put power down. She may be right. She often is. I will be exploring this and asking experts for advice.

Of course, she may yet inherit Wonderbike off me.

I feel pretty good. I've lost... I don't actually know how much I have lost. Quite a bit of weight. At least 30lbs. But I didn't weight myself at the start of the journey, so I honestly do not know. I do know that I look quite different, which is weird. And topless, I look a bit like I'm melting. But in a good way, right? Hellz yeah. Melting is the new black. I have weighed a lot less than I presently do, but probably never looked slimmer; I know I have added even more muscle, but even allowing for that this is odd.
I'm about 230lbs now, I think I have lost about 30lbs, maybe a bit more. And it continues to slide off, even without any 'real' exercise.

(Before anyone vents at me for trying LC/ZC, I was struggling hugely with sugar after quitting drinking. I swapped one source of sugar for another, of course. Right now, it's working for me; I'll see where it goes and how performance is affected.)

I have won a place in next year's London Marathon, which is pretty exciting. I mean, I've done it twice, it's a big event, maybe this time I will do myself justice and get a time I can be proud of. But mostly, I think Annie will absolutely love it, so I want her to go and enjoy the spectacle.

When the shoulder consistently feels ok, it's time to get back in the pool. And very, very shortly it is time to start running again; I need to get in to doing my hip exercise routine too, though. And for the past week that has been impossible as I appear to have picked up a bug from Baby Al, and have had explosive diarrhoea for almost a week, so gym visits and anything involving floor exercises is definitely out...

TL;DR: I'll be back.

Thursday, 18 October 2018

Lazy, and down, but less fat

So, I got into a bit of a post-race funk. I did not come out swinging; life, I felt, kept leg-sweeping me, and I could not stay on my feet. This was compounded by Millie Dog's cancer diagnosis in July, followed by an op to remove a tumour, followed by the cancer returning two weeks later, followed by her going on ahead. She said she'll wait for me though, so I told her when I get there, we'll play all day and run all night. And I had a post in my head, but as soon as I bring her up I forget everything and can barely function. Fuck it.

Monday, 20 August 2018

That did not go to plan.

...and here's why.

It was actually, to me, a disaster.

It's taken me weeks to sit down and write this. I haven't even taken the race number off the bike yet. I haven't unpacked the tri bag, nothing.

I'll keep this as short as I can.

Race day started ok. I got breakfast down me later than anticipated, but it was still workable. Got to the start. Struggled to get wetsuit on, because I'd only had it for about ten days at this point (did I tell you that story? It's a peach, let me know if I didn't, it's worth it). Got it on with some assistance, got into the water maybe 90 seconds before the gun went off. No warmup, nothing.

Goggles started leaking. They've never let anything in before, and it totally fucked my rhythm - the water was murky at best, and it fucking stank, so I didn't want it getting anywhere near my contact lenses, so I had to keep stopping to let water out, try and refit the goggles, get suction etc. About a third of the way through the swim, they stopped leaking, I got the fit right, and we were away. I got passed by TWO waves on the swim, I was of course doing breaststroke. What's funny is, loads of people eventually do breaststroke, but not from the start. No, they look all cool and shit at the start, in the mix, throwing arms about. When nobody can see them? Breaststroke.  Me? Fuck looking cool.

As a result, the swim was even slower than anticipated. I was expecting about 52 minutes, came out in 1hr 6mins I think. May have been 4 mins. I forget.

I was just pleased to be under the cutoff though, and moving. Got out, got on bike. Wore second set of shorts as didn't trust tri suit to protect balls and barse for 56 miles.

It was a hot day, and the course was hillier than anticipated. Long, slow hills. I made one really crucial mistake, and that was neither training with carb drinks, nor racing with them. I had electrolyte drinks, and that was all. And three peanut butter bagels, which thanks to a combination of shitty roadsides and crap bike handling, meant I was stopping for food.

Anyway, everyone passed me on the bike, and I learned a hell of a lot. They were flying by, and I was struggling grimly to say the least. They had more hours in the saddle, and they had technique. I had fuck all.

I also had a mechanical issue, which nobody has yet been able to explain to me – the front mech on the bike bent, both on my last long ride pre-race and in the race. It bent outwards. I have no idea how, but if my foot had caught and bent it like that, I would surely have felt it. It made changing the front cogs very interesting, even impossible at times, and certainly had an effect on my race, not least psychologically.

To cut a long story short, I did the 56, and as I came into transition I was stopped from going out on the run. I missed cutoff by about 16 minutes, the dude said. I checked the results, it was more like seven minutes, but a miss is a miss.

I was so fucked off. The main thing in my head was, Annie won't be able to go down the finisher chute with me. She won't get my medal. I was gutted about that. Still am. But I also know - and knew this on the day - that if I had been able to get on the run I would have DNFed there instead. The heat was utterly fucking me, and despite wearing Factor 50 sun cream in most places, my sunburn had blistered and was pretty tender. That would have been a hospital job I suspect, if I had been out there any longer.

What have I learned? To spend more time on the bike. To spend more time in the pool. To get the weapons to fight with, and not hope that raw strength can get me everywhere.

I started doing some strength training a few weeks ago, hurt my piriformis (so doctor said, but she also admitted she didn't know - I suspect it is hip flexor-related though), and had to rest that; in the rest period, I decided to go zero carb, at least for a while, and see how that feels. This is related to racing, honestly. I cannot bear the gels that you supposedly have to put down, and I am years away from having the bike skills to eat bagels on the move, so I need ammunition. Why not try to burn fat as fuel? Hell, I've got enough of it to feed Stalingrad circa 1943. I feel good on it so far, so let's see where that goes.

I also have an appointment with a physio I trust - she works with elite-level athletes, and me. I'm going to hopefully do a pre-season appraisal with her, so she can highlight weaknesses and areas I need to strengthen and improve - and hopefully she may be able to talk hip flexors etc.

I'm coming back next year, and I aim not just to finish, but to compete, and to be the best me I can be. I'm not used to failing, and while it sucks, I remind myself of the boxing maxim: you either win or you learn. I learned, and now I train to win. I'm not talking podium – I'm just talking, let's see what I can do, and get in the right shape to do that.

Monday, 25 June 2018

Oh shit.

We're down to the final week before the race. I'm not tapering as such, as I get too damn stiff if I stop exercising.

It's been interesting. My training has been totally inadequate - not enough miles, though I think there is enough in the body and mind to drag myself all the way round, just about. My longest training 'run' was two hours; I'd expect to finish the run in about 2.5 hours, particularly as the forecast is for 24 degrees. Swim, I'm going to be cutting it fine, but should still make cutoff with ten minutes or more to spare. Bike... Fuck knows. Four hours ish. Not going to be quick, but it has to be around four hours in case I blow up on the run in the weather.

Anyway, like I say, it's been interesting. Went out on the bike for a very undulant 3 hours 50-ish, it was pretty warm (21 degrees ish), I only did 40 miles in that time but it's the first time I have had the chance to do anything like that time or distance, and I am just glad I did it.

Between that and two hours on my run, I feel much more confident now.

Add to that an actual open water swim, and I am in a far, far better place than I was.

That reminds me, let me tell you a story. It's a beauty.

So, seven or so weeks back I bought a wetsuit. Cost me about £200, bought it direct from the manufacturer. Spoke to them a few times about sizing before buying because as previously documented, sizing is done by weight and my near-18 stone frame is packed into just 5' 6", which means a wetsuit to fit a man of 6' 5" or above.

I discovered this manufacturer does an SS size, which stands for 'shirt and stocky'; I ordered one in an entry-ish level suit. It arrived, it was beautiful, I tried it on. Or I tried to try it on. No joy.

Tried a couple more times. No chance. Could get it up to midriff, getting it on shoulders though? Ha!

Went away for work, came back. Tried again. No chance.

Last Wednesday night, tried it again. And again. And again. Got it on to shoulders, but a hell of a  fight to get it there. And then of course the zip popped out at the bottom so I couldn't even do it up.

I was fucking livid.

Anyway, the next night my tri club was having an event at a nearby lake, with said wetsuit company. They would have a rep there and you could try on suits etc. Brilliant!

I turned up a little late, but found it. Took wetsuit - in box - over to the display, where tri club skipper introduced me to the dude. I said "Nice to meet you. Could you help me with this wetsuit please? I can't get the fucking thing on."

"No problem," he replied. "Let's have a look at it."

He takes it out of the box, looks at it for a few seconds, and says "I know what the problem is."

"Really? Wow! What is it?"

"This is a women's suit."


It's true though. I checked the order, and I ordered the right suit, for men. They sent the wrong one, and the only way to see that is there is a 'w' on the size on the label - so it says 'wss'. I had six weeks of anxiety about the suit and race day, and six weeks where I couldn't go open water swimming. God I was pissed off.
But then the dude said, "Try this on instead, it's a far better suit. If you like it we can just swap them and I'll have yours for a demo suit."
So I did, and walked away with a £450 suit instead, which I can actually get on with relative ease. And of course I got an open water swim in too, so it's a big win for me.

Bring it on, I guess. I'm as ready as I can be.

Friday, 4 May 2018

It's going to be like being punched, a lot.

Life just keeps getting in the way. I get a few days of really good quality training together, then shit just happens. Take this week - finished my deadline Wednesday morning, absolutely shattered after that. Thursday, Fernster comes down really poorly - and she really, really was - and then Joe too. I was worried about the Fernanator, so didn't want to disappear to gym and pool and leave her alone if it was something serious.

She's on good form today, but yesterday was tri club and a coached pool session, shame to miss that. Today though, Joe and Al are down and unwell. Life goes on, but it has ways of throwing spanners into works.

Anyway, aiming to do a monster gym session tonight, then a decent bike in the morning, and hopefully a long, long run Sunday. Going to aim for about 90 minutes, I think. I just need to be getting out there, building stamina.

Longest bike so far has been 17.5 miles, very comfortable; longest run, 5.5, which was tough but was in Vegas; longest swim, 1m, very comfortable. But I know, despite the comfort of the training, that the day will be a million times tougher. It will be as the title of the post.

I've already entered another 70.3 for later in the year, because this one is just to get the hell around it, and see what it's all about. Not that I am not taking it seriously, but I have absolutely no frame of reference for any of it.

I'm rambling. More after I do some decent training this weekend.

Monday, 23 April 2018

A lot has happened, but not that much really.

Gosh, where was I?

I've been so up and down I don't know my arse from my elbow.

Front crawl (freestyle, US Fact Fans) is coming on a little. I can do a length, at least. My kick is a fucking disaster though, so that's where work will be focussed. Arms and breathing all good now, just the kick; legs sink unless I kick at a sprint rate, and the kick is so shitty that if I do it at the correct rate my legs just basically stop me. But with flippers on, I am a fucking rocket.

So that's coming on.

Most I have done on the bike is 17.5 miles, which was not tough but it was pretty slow (13.3 mph average, 121 HR). It puts me at current rate to finish the bike leg in about 4 hours 20ish. Not fast at all, hopefully I can work on that a little (a lot). The bike leg should really be my strongest as it's not weight bearing and leg strength is a big plus.

Hardly run at all since Vegas, though anything up to 30 minutes is nice and easy. But fuck me I am so slow now. I wasn't quick before but now, holy fucking shit. It's like running in treacle. While breathing treacle. And having eaten nothing but treacle for the previous four years.

Haven't bought a wetsuit yet; not done any open-water swimming. Breaststroke still very strong, though. Shoulders are like rocks, legs the same.

And a half Ironman is nine weeks and six days away.


Best get some quality training in. Whatever I do, I know that the day will be different. It will be unlike any brick session (that I haven't yet done any of either), unlike anything else. It will be what it is, and I will have to make it from one end to the other.

Have to start training with carbohydrate drinks shortly, upping the miles, sorting my shit out.

I have genuinely started to take things seriously though. I got some of that arse cream for the bike; I also had a bike fitting, which was really interesting. Tonight, hopefully swim and run, not in that order. I will try and do 3-4 miles of 'running', and hopefully about an hour in the pool if it's not too busy. Kind of like a brick session, but not really as there will ultimately be about 10-15 minutes between the two.

Oh, one major positive from the weekend - for my 'long' ride, I got up at 5:30am. Not done that for a long, long time, and it suits me far better than training late and then eating afterward and maybe getting to bed at midnight. Problem for me is the pool is far too busy in the morning, so it's evenings only for me; but runs and bikes will be moving to mornings, and soon.

I think this is all possible. Let you know in about a week.

Tuesday, 3 April 2018

Fucking training is a fucking disaster.

Life is too, really.

But let's focus on training, because that's what this blog is at least theoretically about.

I spent last week in Las Vegas for work; I've always hated the place, but I hate it even more now that I am sober. Before, I could at least sit and read and get drunk, but now it's just reading. I love reading, but I would rather do it at home.

I contacted someone from a tri group in the area asking about 24-hr lap pools in the city, and I got what seemed to me a curt reply, in a kind of DUHHHHH way; "Have you tried 24-hr Fitness?' Well, no, because I've never heard of them. They're not present in the UK at all as far as I can tell, and not a brand I am familiar with because WHY FUCKING WOULD I BE??

I look them up. Using the hotel's zip code, I discern there is one pretty close by. Except, contrary to its name, it is not open 24 hours a day. It's not even open seven days a fucking week. The next closest I find has a lap pool and is open 24/7; so I go in, have a cursory look round, am discussing what my needs are with a really nice lady. She says, let's go and look at the pool shall we?

We look at the lap pool. I had not realised until this point that lap pool meant a pool that could fit in your lap. It was perhaps 12 metres, when the minimum I would describe as a lap pool would be 25.

So I try the next location. It has a proper lap pool. Thank fuck. And it's open 24/7.


So anyway, my Sunday went as follows: got up, ran outside, did 5.5 miles which was way more than I thought I would manage. I went by feel, and it felt ok. But that air... Jaysus.

Did some work.

Went for a swim, about 10:15pm. Pool to myself, though many were using the steam room and sauna and dipping in the pool in between the two. Swam a mile, for the first time. It was pretty easy, though not quick. I did my usual of not pushing off the side or touching the bottom at the end of a lap, which slows me down a lot but also, I feel, increases my endurance and overall strength.

Got back to the hotel and ate lots of vegetables.

Next day, I managed half an hour on an elliptical, which was actually pretty tough. But from there, I had a lot of muscle soreness, and also the run outside seems to have hamstrung me. It was very windy in Vegas, and one of the rules of being in the desert is, if it's windy, don't fucking go outside. The amount of shit that gets thrown up into the air is incredible, and I think I ate most of it. I was barking like a dog – and still am, over a week later. The rest of the week saw no exercise, largely thanks to my schedule and partly thanks to being woken up a few times, which left me feeling a lot worse than I might otherwise have. But the main reason for not making it back to the pool? It cost me $60 in Uber fares to get there and back, and that's just fucking silly. I have since found out about a couple of places closer to my hotel, but I was sincerely hoping for more help from the local I contacted initially. We're in the same group on Facebook, and it's quite the group, with lots of positivity and advice. Except, it seems, from that person. Oh well, lesson learned.

It was shitty trip, but I must admit, a great one in terms of work.

Now I am hugely jet lagged but hopefully getting back into the swing of things tonight at the pool. And tomorrow morning with a run. And a bike fitting tomorrow afternoon.

Got to get shit in gear - race is just three months away and just gritting my teeth ain't gonna get me through it, despite being a lot fitter and stronger than I thought I was. Haven't even looked at tri suit, wetsuit or nutrition yet...

Wednesday, 21 March 2018

An accidental brick

So I set my alarm for 6am - I've not consciously tried to get up at 6 for some time. It went well. I got up about 6:18, performed some ablutions, then went downstairs to sit on the turbo trainer.

I was only on it for 22 minutes or so, but I was streaming with sweat afterward; I tend to move the pedals at a much, much higher cadence than I do on the road. Hopefully it will rub off on the road, with improved speeds or something.

Where was I? Oh, yeah. Sweat pouring off me. Then it was time for Annie's bath so I got her ready, and Fern got in, waiting for me to pass her across. Just after, I heard the dogs barking.

For clarification, we have two dogs – or, I have one and Fern has one. Fern's is a six-month-old puppy, a huntaway, which is a New Zealand sheepdog. Basically, their version of a collie directs these massive flocks from the front, while a group of huntaways work the back, driving the sheep. They are big, strong dogs with incredible stamina, and a hell of a bark. High maintenance, as any working breed usually is, but also great running partners, especially for those fancying trying their hand at ultras, as Fern is (and at which she has already done very well).

So I head downstairs to see what the fuss is about, and both dogs want to be let out - Millie, who is nearly 15 years old and quite the Wonder Dog, and Farley, the puppy that at six months, dwarfs Millie. Millie is a 20kg mongrel, Farley is over 30kg we think, and growing. And he is pretty damn fast.

So out we go. Farley goes straight over to the fence and crawls through a hole he should not even be able to think about, and goes straight after the sheep in the field. I know he won't hurt them, but they don't know that and they - along with their very, very young lambs - run for their lives. I'm shouting and shouting (it was annoyingly rather like the video of that bloke whose dog was chasing the deer in Richmond Park. You know the one), he pauses, looks back at me, and fucks off good and proper.


No choice but to give chase, in boots that are not laced up, as best I can. Across a rutted, frozen field, chasing a fucking puppy. I caught the dog, smacked his arse (he knew he had done wrong, too) and walked home with him. I didn't have to hang on to him either, he came with me.

So that was my accidental brick.

Legs felt fine.

Tuesday, 20 March 2018

I'm beginning to remember how good it was to have a coach...

...because the workouts are just there, you don't have to think, just do. Right now that would be such a blessing because, despite having a shit-ton of knowledge of some stuff, sometimes that is not the easiest thing to focus.

And the fucking swim workouts on the plans I have looked at may as well be in Cyrillic. Seriously. They are not in English. I'd love to find a just-get-your-arse-round-it program, that says, 'swim for an hour. Good work, have a cake'. Or 'run for an hour. Great work, now sit the fuck down'.

Dammit, did I pick the wrong sport?

In all honesty, I genuinely do think the programs I have seen are way, way too technical. They are not for true beginners, and assume a level of understanding way beyond where I am.

I guess, for now at least, I stick with the plan - muddle through, build endurance, do some (lots) of brick sessions, and turn up on the day ready to fight.

Next race though, assuming I can afford it (because I honestly cannot right now - the price of heating oil has doubled and we are almost out, for example, and one of the places that helps my daughter is charging from July (a nice new £1500+ a year bill, and though they are worth every penny it is money that has to be found). Bloody fucking money.

I'm whinging. Sorry.

Tonight I will go straight from work to the gym. There, I will smash the fucking treadmill (by which I mean, I will run for perhaps 40 minutes, very slowly), then I will get into the pool where I will swim for an hour. It's not technical, but it will get me to the start line. I hope.

Thursday, 8 March 2018

I unpacked the turbo trainer

I can't say I fully understand how the software and trainer talk, but it works. I did a fuck-off cherry-popping session on it, and the only thing I think I forgot was to put a towel underneath. I got a bit sweaty.

It was kinda fun though. Kept cadence fairly high (90-92), messed about with gears, did 17km in 32 minutes. Watts were around 150-160, peaked at 162.

Of course, the numbers mean next to nothing to me as I simply have no context. Let's just explore the software and see what it and I can do, and how strong I can get. And no, I am not going to buy a power meter. I wouldn't want to punish innocent technology with my manly legs.

If this is what the ride is like in July, I'd have the bike part done in just over 2.5 hours I think. I'd be over the fucking moon with that.

Monday, 5 March 2018

I had a low.

I did. Just a few days ago, I said to Fern "There's a fucking bike I've hardly ridden, a fucking turbo trainer that's not out of the fucking box yet, three pairs of fucking unused running shoes upstairs, and another fucking bike on the fucking way. What a fucking waste."

She said, "You've hardly used them yet."

She was right, of course. So this weekend, I went into the gym and hit it fairly hard, both days. Did quality cardio (pyramid on cross trainer, run on treadmill) and weights (a little bit of legs (adductor and abductor), kettlebells), then same plus upper body on the second day. And yes, I feel pretty fucking good now.

Still thinking, it's four months away and I have hardly any bike time banked, and the swim is still a fucking wreck. But I have enlisted a new swim coach, and the weather has not allowed me to cycle outside; turbo trainer will be set up tonight.

I binned the old coach because I didn't feel he was listening. Nice lad an everything, but when your student says "I don't think my cardio fitness is up to three strokes then breathe", you should perhaps listen or make that your fucking starting point for the session; also, when your literature says you will only have five people in the pool for adult lessons, don't put seven in there. It makes a small pool a lot smaller.

Anyway, my niece is swim coaching, and she's up for the challenge, so I said why the hell not.

I also joined a tri club, and they seem to be a very friendly bunch of people.

So, it's mostly positive, after some negative.

In other news, other aspects of life are pretty sucky but this is not the place for them.

Tuesday, 13 February 2018

Turns out swimming is hard.

Since I quit drinking, I have had the longest illness-free period of my adult life, I think. Colds pass by without me breaking a sweat, I may get a tickle here or there but nothing ever fully blooms.

I'm not speaking too soon, believe me. This goes pretty much precisely where you think it goes.

I was away in London for most of last week, and it was punishing. Meetings every 30 minutes for three days, no breaks for lunch or whatever, plus an awards event I had helped organise and was the industry 'face' of. By Thursday night, I was just fucked.

Friday, I worked*. Weekend off, and a tickle is developing... I still managed to do a quick workout Saturday and Sunday, with minimal coughing. But by Monday's swim it was becoming a more fully-rounded cough, with lungular cracklage to boot. So there I was, trying out my crawl, and just couldn't breathe well. But I at least got to study some other swimmers, which was really interesting; it led to me posting a query on a group I am in on Fartbook.

See, my teacher has been teaching me bilateral breathing – that is, breathing on both sides, so taking a breath on an odd stroke count. But I'm struggling with the rhythm of it, and, well, the actual breathing bit. Last night, watching all these perfectly competent swimmers, I was struck by one thing – every one of them was breathing unilaterally. So, I thought, why not train to swim unilaterally, but learn to do it on both sides? That way if water is choppy or whatever, I can adapt and retain speed and form, in theory at least.

So I put the question out there. And one reply hit a nerve, in a good way. The dude said something along the lines of, I started by training unilaterally but as my fitness grew, I switched to bilaterally. So while training and increasing fitness, he needed to take one breath every other stroke, but as his cardio increased, he was able to put an extra stroke in. Genius.

I had not even thought I could be struggling so completely just because I am now swim fit. It's coming home to me now just what that means, and that the part of this that is likely to have the greatest impact on me physically is the swim.

This week I am going to stick to cardio and/or weights in the gym until my chest clears up. But I have ordered cleats for the bike, so new pedals and shoes for when I am ready to rock and roll and not cough my bollocks up. That's another big step.

More soon.

Oh, I didn't run last week as it turned out. What actually happened is, I overslept massively every single day. Missed at least one entire press conference. Go me!

*stared into space, but at my desk.

Friday, 2 February 2018

Apologies for the slight break in your viewing.

It's been a tough few weeks with work and stuff, and I have tried hard to fit training in. I finally got out on the bike this week and fuck the weather; I only went out twice, but it was encouraging and fun, and hard enough for me to push myself. Two rides, each of seven miles, as I try to get used to my lovely bike.

It was good, and that was incredibly reassuring. I also had my first crash, 30 metres from the drive, on the way home. I made the mistake of looking up to see how far away the house was (the road to ours is a bit steep, and the road a bit fucked), and the wheel came off the crumbled edge of tarmac, and I hit the deck. I raised my arms, "Yes! First crash!"

Anyway, I have since invested in some gloves, and a couple more pairs of bike shorts. I have also checked out cleats and the appropriate pedals, which is cool.

I have also been swimminhg a couple of times, including what felt like an epic session in the pool; I was determined not to use the walls or floor to aid me, so I did 3/4 of a mile without touching anything. Not so hard, but it was. And why? Because each lap you are basically starting from a still position. Took me 45 minutes to do 3/4 of a mile, which while not quick tells me my breaststroke is pretty decent.

I did that session because the previous one was so disheartening; I just cannot seem to string together even a full lap of front crawl, and I honestly do not know why. I have another lesson tomorrow though, so hopefully I can get Teach to look into that.

I am, of course, no lighter, but I feel pretty damn good. My diet is improving, I am sleeping like a brick, and next week as I am away, I only have one real choice for exercise. That's right folks – next week I start running again, properly. Outside, whatever the weather.

I'm actually quite excited.

Thursday, 25 January 2018

Another swimming lesson, and another lesson. I think.

Swimming lesson 2 was last Saturday, and it was just as good as the first, if not perhaps better - and I think I know the fundamental reason why. I'm not 100 per cent sure, but I think I know.

I left the house earlier than usual, as I wanted to get to the gym first and give myself a miniature beasting. This came in the shape of 20 minutes on the treadmill; 20 minutes is, for some reason, my first goal in terms of continuous running, it's the point at which you can think, I can run outside now. So I tried it, and I nailed it with plenty to spare. Sure, it was hard, but it was a happy hard. And that is not a euphemism.

The I jumped in the car and drove to my lesson, which is maybe a 25-minute drive.

The lesson was much easier. Much, much easier. I warmed up with some breaststroke lengths, he got me to work on my kick/glide, I think it came down to about 18 kicks to cover 50 metres. And it felt good. Then we did front crawl, and I did a length for the first time; I almost did another later in the lesson, too. So I was pretty chuffed, you know?

Monday rolls around, and I get down the pool; I was a bit late, so I didn't get into the gym first, but I got into the pool, did a couple of breaststroke lengths, then tried a crawl and… Nothing. Couldn't hit a length if I was on fucking fire. In the pool.

What I am thinking is, Saturday was good because I not only worked well before we moved on to crawl, but I also got my heart rate right up beforehand. It's kind of like calibration, getting my body ready for the worst that can happen. But I have to get really out of breath and beyond it, to move into the anaerobic breathing space, before I can swim even reasonably well.

I have a deadline right now, but Fern has very kindly said I can work late and go to the pool straight from work. I have my gym kit, so tonight we put that to the test. I will be very surprised indeed if it is not the case. Maybe I need to work out how I can reach that stage in the pool, but I can't help but think that I will be able to do exactly that once I can front crawl for more than a few seconds… Is this a vicious circle??

Oh, but my time for a length now I am kicking better is around 45 seconds, which feels kind of respectable. Which if I can maintain it, would give me a 24-minute half mile, 48-ish minute mile, 53 minutes-ish for 1.2 miles. Which is way below the cutoff time of 1 hour and 10 minutes. So there's that. But I want to do this, and I can't let a few shitty sessions set me back.

PS: Still not been on bike – had very high winds here, so fuck that shit. Maybe tomorrow?

Friday, 19 January 2018

If it's on Facebook, it must be true.

I announced this triathlon to my peers today via Facebook. Shit just got real, yo.

I also announced it to the lady I still call 'boss', my former- and to-be-again coach, but that was by email.

I'm not sure if I told my parents yet, but someone will probably tell them.

So yeah, it's happening.

I ducked out of training last night though. It is a learning curve, doing endurance training again, and I had a shitty night's sleep on Wednesday. So last night, I was tired, and a bit stressed – which is actually an ideal recipe for exercise as it generally lifts one from a slump nicely. I thought, I'll get an early night instead. And I stayed up til not far off midnight, because I am a twat.

Learning curve lesson: don't be a twat. If you're not going to do some kind of evening session, sleep.

Swimming lesson 2 tomorrow. I practised a bit this week, but still can't do a length. But I'm sure I will be able to by the time I finish tomorrow's lesson.

Thursday, 18 January 2018

Things that worry me.

There's not much that scares me in life*. I have a very simple philosophy – if there is a problem, deal with it. Take some form of action. And if you can't directly control it, don't worry about it too much.

Needles used to scare me into insensibility; now, not so much but they still put the shits up me. A phlebotomist described it as an irrational fear, but that's not really true. Needles had never bothered me until I was 16, and had to have an injection between my toes. That, Fact Fans, is fucking hideous. And I had to have it twice more at later dates, knowing what was coming. Fuck. That. Shit.

So there's what you might call a clear path for that particular fear.

What else? Well, bikling does actually worry me. Back in the day, when I was about... 28, I think, I used to cycle to work. Initially, this was 3-4 miles-ish. Later, it became just shy of 10 very hilly miles, so a little under 100 miles a working week. I had to drink a lot to stay fat then, believe me. Total dedication.

On the first route, an elderly driver decided that because he had indicated, he had right of way, and so turned across my path. It was on a very steep hill, I was coming down it. I wasn't doing more than about 20mph, as there were bus stops and speed bumps, and I could not go around the back of his car as there was another vehicle behind him. I almost missed him but clipped the back bumper, left the bike, and went flying down the hill. Which was steep enough that when I landed, I did so on my feet. I caught a leg on the car as I went over it, but that was all. I was basically unhurt, but for a big dent in the muscle that runs alongside the shin (another disproportionately large muscle on me, and I suspect that here it kept my leg from being more seriously hurt as it kept the collision away from the bone).

On the second route, on a bright sunny morning where I was wearing a white hoody, another driver turned right across the front of me. This time I went over the bonnet, managed to clear it except brushing my arm across those things that squirt water on the windscreen. Weirdly, that left a tiny scar for many years. Again, I was basically unhurt but this time, my bike didn't make it.

So there's some residual fear/worry about cycling that I just need to step into the face of, meet its eyes and say, "Hi. I'm badgerdaddy. Is there anything you would like to say to me?"**

I'm also, and this will sound stupid, worried about who I am. We define so much of ourselves by our fears and our habits, that to be facing fears for me leads me down a path of wondering who I might be at the end of it – or more realistically, if there is indeed an end or if I may have found a path of personal evolution that I can barrel down instead of living within zones of comfort or fear.

I have defined myself in the past with alcohol. Not consciously, but if I was away with work, I would find a bar, take a book and settle in. Same at home, frequently. More frequently in the last 10 years. I have a couple of million great stories that start with, "I was in this pub..." or "I was fucking shitfaced when..." I have not had a drink in four months. Four months today, actually, was my 'official' not drinking date, though I had not had any alcohol for a few days before that. But I think as animals, we need our arbitrary lines, and that's mine.

Who am I? I've not really got any idea at the moment. Not in a mid-life crisis stylee, but in a curious way. What defines me? Well, I know that fear doesn't. My most basic credo is that we choose out of two things every day, and in almost every decision: fear or love. I do my best to make the right choice every day. I don't always succeed. So does love define me? I hope it's a part of the package. I guess we'll find out on this journey, because if there is one thing endurance training has taught me, it's that you will find out exactly what you are made of at some point on the way.

*Beards of bees.
**"Nothing? Then get the fuck out."

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Swimming lessons

Before Christmas, I figured well, I can't cycle (I prefer saying bikle though), terrified to start running again, so I will get in the gym and pool. So I did.

I've been doing short gym sessions, more quality than quantity. So I get in and do maybe 30 minutes, hit the cross trainer, rower, maybe a watt bike and some leg weights, and a set or two with kettlebells. The cross trainer session is a pyramid, where I start with resistance on 1 and up it by 1 every 30 seconds; if I have time, I do this until I can barely move it (that would be around 21), then I drop it by 1 every 30 seconds. It's very effective and gives endurance, strength and cardio in a neat package.

Anyway, while in the pool, I generally do breaststroke. It's quite natural for me, and if I apply myself, I can keep up with a slow front crawler. Even overtake one or two. But I realised as it currently takes me 30 minutes to do half a mile, then 1.2 miles will take me almost up to the cutoff to finish the swim section of the race. So there's absolutely no cushion in there at all. My solution? Front crawl, motherfuckers!

Except it turns out I can't do it. Just cannot breathe, or roll to breathe, or any of it. So fuck that. Or rather, get a fucking teacher.

So I signed up for lessons with a group recommended by a friend. It's 1-1 teaching in a private pool at a local school, and I went for my first lesson last Saturday. What a fucking revelation that was. I entered the pool someone who could not crawl, and I left it as someone that could. In 30 minutes. Mazin!

Last night I went to my local pool and tried out what I had learned, and I can still do it! Problem is, I can't maintain it for a length, I find I am really gasping for air. I think it's a combination of trying to do it too fast and shitty cardio fitness; that said, I tried it much slower and found the same thing. I can do 2/3-3/4 of a length, but then find I am really struggling to catch my breath.

The solution, I think, is... to start running. It increases my cardio like nothing else, but also has a huge, huge impact on my lung capacity.

Back in the day when I was in a band, I wish I had been a runner not a smoker. The effect it has on my singing is also profound; I am still a shitty singer, but I can hold and maintain that shit for a lot longer. I can even do a passable rendition of this, if shitfaced and alone:

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And this (it's worth it just for the intro. It absolutely rocks.)

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TL;DR: Went to swimming lesson. Learned to swim.

Monday, 15 January 2018

How I got to this point

There seem to have been many false dawns - hell, I can see that just by scrolling down the posts on here - but this feels different. Is different, I should say.

In my last-but-one post, in July, I said something about doing some new shit or other, I had to get into shape, blah blah blah. Said it all before and for various reasons, it hasn't happened.

Shortly after that post in July, I was struck by gout. I'd had it in one short episode before, in the middle of a 2.5-year drunk; I knew what it was then, and  knew what it was when it came back in July. The previous visit was just for a day, really – a tiny flare, but it should have served as more of a warning and had I done the reading then, things may have been quite different.

Anyway, I didn't, and it came back, and much worse and for much, much longer. The average attack is 10-14 days, I had it for almost three months. Not massively, but it was there. I can't rest and stay off my feet, I have three young children and one of them is disabled so relies on her parents to help her around. It's just not an option. For a month, it was pretty bad; the following two, it flared up and down but never quite went away.

During this period, I saw the doctor a few times, as you would. She was patient, and listened, I didn't pull any punches with my history or lifestyle. I didn't lie, basically. She told me, if I got through my upcoming work trip without needing Colchicine, I could go on to Allopurinol when I got back. Well, it wasn't great while I was away, but I also got through it without the drugs. (I was in Vegas, FYI, and when the shootings kicked off I was downtown in my hotel with my foot up the wall, reading. A very, very strange time.)

So I started on Allo. This is a drug to inhibit the body's production of uric acid, which ultimately causes gout. Before they let you on it, you have to have a blood test which tells them your current levels, and allows them to test your kidney and liver function. This was my first ever blood test. and included a prescription for some numbing cream they use on children… It worked, but it still took me 25 minutes to let the phlebotomist actually take some blood. We got there though.

My kidney and liver function were described, miraculously in my opinion, as 'excellent', so we got started. They have to up the dosage gradually so that every bit of uric acid sitting in your joints and doing nothing doesn't just come loose and give you the attack to end them all. I'm about to have another blood test, I'm up to 300mg dosage and we're either there or very close to it. My blood urate levels are in the normal range and have been for a month, and I have been able to do some exercise.

Something else that's happened as a result of the gout: well, it two things actually. I have been mostly vegetarian for nearly four months, and I have not touched a drop of alcohol in that time either.

Never done either of those things before.

In those nearly four months, I have lost about 14lbs and done no exercise to speak of. Which is pretty cool. I look as though I have lost a lot more though, apparently, because my face has lost some puffiness. People are surprised by my appearance when they see me, one friend on Skype said, "I've never seen you looking like this before".

What else got me here? Oh yes, I bought a mid-life crisis bike, the kind that makes MAMILs out of even the most ordinary of us. It was an excellent deal, and it's a beautiful bike; it remains unridden though. When I was ready to get on and ride it (when I got the nod that my urate levels were 'normal'), I got a call from the bike shop to say that there was a global recall on that model and that replacement forks would be sent from the US as soon as possible. It looks like they might be here by the start of February, which is annoying but, what can you do?

I asked the shop to put different forks on so I could at least rack up a few miles. I collected the bike Saturday, still not ridden it. Last time I did much cycling, I was hit by a car on two occasions, and in another incident, chased by a driver (in his car) who wanted to kick the shit out of me. Fun times. But it can all leave a scar, and it's just another little hurdle to jump through and which takes me further from my comfort zone.

Then there's the running. Not run for quite a while, and I am afraid, slightly, of starting it again. I have been working on the hamstrings and glutes, and I know I am strong. I have been working in the pool a bit, and on cardio where I can, usually in short bursts in the gym. But I need to just get out there and do.

Fuck fear. There's more, but it can wait. Tomorrow you get to hear about… swimming lessons.

Sunday, 14 January 2018

Comfort zones

The reason I started blogging, many years ago, was to warm my hands up before transcription. Boring? Fuck yes. But I thought I would share anyway, as you're probably already at least a bit bored, and therefore reading blogs fairly randomly.

I've been thinking, the last few years, about comfort zones. How we live almost entirely within them, despite evolving from creatures who damn nearly didn't have any. How we can actually go months and months without ever leaving the familiar. And from that, I was wondering about growth, personal growth, and how that happens. I concluded that it mostly develops from adversity of one type or another.

Anyway, I've shit on a few comfort zones this past few years. And I have loved it, mostly. I had kids - never planned to, met someone, they said it would be a good idea. I had a think about it, a lot actually, and I thought, fuck it. Let's go.

Always hated cars, and now I can drive. Way out of my comfort zone for that one. Now I regularly drive to airports via the motorway and shit like that. WOAH. I know, right?

So needlephobic it's utterly embarrassing. I mean, a big strong guy like me, afraid of a little thing like GET THAT FUCKING THING AWAY FROM ME. Yeah, it's that bad. Worse, actually. And yet I've done three blood tests in recent months, with another next week. And it gets easier every time.

Finally, I thought, let's get right out there. Let's enter a triathlon. I've had Ironman on my mind for a long time now, so let's just do it. I found a nice looking first tri, half Iron distance (1.2-mile open water swim, 56 miles on the bike, then 13.1-mile run if I remember right), in a lovely area. Be a great way to raise funds for one of the charities that supports my daughter so beautifully.

So I did it. The race is July 1st. Don't worry, I don't expect you to be there. But I would appreciate it if you'd join me for the journey. I promise it will be completely open and honest, and I promise promise to swear a lot.

More tomorrow.