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.