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.