Category Archives: Bland

Day 26 – Dot Dot Dash Dash Dot Dot

Total Distance – 157km

I have limped, figuratively and literally up to 157km. Over the space of 5 days I’ve managed 2 very painful shortish runs and one bafflingly pain free longer one. There seems to be no rhyme or reason to when my knee flares up – though I think it’s closely related to whether I tackle hills or not. With 5 days to go I’d like to sneak close to a respectable 200km for the month, but it’s a lottery each day as to whether I can limp 40ft or breeze along for 10kkm. We shall see….

 

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Day 8 – Statistics

  • Distance – 10km
  • Total Distance – 60km

Another 10km today. It’s getting a little easier, so next week it’s time to start concentrating on bringing the times down to reasonable levels, as well as boosting the distance a little….

I spent the afternoon up at the university wrestling with my Biostatistics module. I’ve always been terrible at maths. My GCSE “B” was hard won with hours of additional tuition and a shed-load of luck. Algebra is a big no no, but anything with numbers in brings me out in a cold sweat. This is originally why I did a Biology degree, as it’s the only science you can do where maths isn’t vitally important. Well, that’s what I thought. Of course, I realised fairly quickly that Biology actually involves a lot of statistics – so there were many tearful late nights sat with my friends on maths and computing courses begging them to help me with my coursework.

That said, I probably hate statistics the least of all mathematical disciplines. Unlike abstract maths there is at least a point to it. There was a lingering doubt that perhaps at nearly 40 I’d overcome my mathlexia and could learn to love the art of number crunching – but my terrible performance in a couple of pretest-tests this afternoon showed it was still in full force. Here’s a statistic – I managed to get 76% on one test on the second attempt WHEN I HAD ALL THE ANSWERS. Stunning. Next week I have to do six tests in total. It doesn’t take a statistical genius to work out that P < 0.05 I’ll do well.

That was a statistics joke. If you didn’t like it try not to be mean (and ANOVER).

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Day 6 – Exploration

  • Distance – 6km
  • Total distance – 40km

Set off with the intention of running a decent distance, but ended up running about 3km in one direction (along the beach) then running 3km back in the other direction (quite close to the beach). Once I got back to the start I didn’t have the heart to do any more, so I sacked it in. My terrible distances have seen me cut hopelessly adrift from the Janathon top ten, languishing down in 13th place. But, I did find a nice new route which can be glued onto my existing one to make it a little longer.

The weather has been suspiciously good the past couple of days, I’m expecting an ice-storm tomorrow or meteor strike.

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Clunky Cakey

Running. Another 10km. Still in eighth. Two people starting to breathe down my neck. Desperate to reach the end now.

Not much of note happened today.

I did finally book the car in to have an annoying clunk looked at. We’ve already spent about 500 euros at one garage to eliminate the clunk and after fitting new shock absorbers, exhaust lugs and tightening various bits of the car’s underside it still clunks. It’s the sort of clunk the carefree part of your brain says “oh, it’s only a clunk, I’m sure it’s nothing” and the rational part goes “THE BOTTOM OF THE CAR IS GOING TO FALL OFF AND YOU’RE GOING TO DIE”.

The clunking, to date, has been just the perfect amplitude to sit neatly between my two brain halves – noisy enough to worry about, but not noisy enough to do anything about. The impetus to visit a garage was finally there when we realised our badly adjusted headlights were not only blinding oncoming traffic but probably passing aircraft too. In fact, when I saw that ferry had crashed in Italy because the captain started steering all over the place I felt a twinge of guilt we might have had something to do with it.

I was quite proud that I managed to talk to a dungaree wearing French mechanic in detail about our car problems this morning. As a man there’s always a fear when talking to a “trade” that you’re going to come off as a bit of a tit. Most men overcompensate for this by suddenly becoming a cockney wideboy “yeah, it’s makin’ a noise, but I like stripped the accumulator off the bezelflaps, and had a poke abaaahht mate, but I don’t have the time really, too busy shaggin’ me missus and going to the dogs innit’?” but most trade people can spot this posturing a mile off. I was fortunate I didn’t have to go through this male-on-male ritual, because I kept forgetting the French words for shock absorbers and headlights and just sort of ended up pointed at things and whining “it’s not working, fix iiiit“. Since moving to France I have become slightly more mechanically minded, but I’m battling against genetics and a middle class upbringing which has left me lacking the confidence to get really stuck in on an engine or a car in general. Dad – thanks for the appreciation of modern jazz, but WHAT THE HELL DOES A ALTERNATOR DO?

Our car is awful, mind you. It’s a Korean MPV which they don’t sell in the UK. It rolls and wallows on its suspension like a birthing humpback whale. It is uncomfortable to drive, it only has 5 gears (so sounds like a drag racer when you push it to motorway speeds) and it has the fuel economy of a combine harvester. We tend to call it “The Souris” (The Mouse) because everything inside the car is so badly put together whenever the car jiggles it sounds like there’s a flock of mice having an orgy in the footwells. It’s also my fault we bought it. We’d spent ages looking for a French car, and after so many bitter, bitter disappointments I just snapped and decided to get it. Remember when your mum took you round shoe shops when you were little and her patience finally evaporated after entering the eighth shop? Remember when she’d shout “WE’RE BUYING THIS PAIR OF SHOES. I DON’T CARE IF THEY FIT OR IF YOU BLOODY LIKE THEM OR NOT”? Yeah, I’d reached that stage. Car fatigue.

After yesterday’s mini-rant about positive people I realised I’d forgot to mention their number one irritating trait.

Bringing cakes into an office to share around.

 

Oh!

I used to ask a related question when I was interviewing people (“do you bring cakes into the office for your fellow co-workers to enjoy?“) and if anyone answered yes then things went like Hans Gruber’s death scene in Die Hard (youtube it). You should never, ever, bring cakes into an office. There’s no excuse for it. If your pessimistic co-workers wanted a cake, they’d have got a cake. Bringing a cake into an office for someone else is like a cry for help. It’s needy. It’s clingy. It’s expressing a desperate desire to be loved. It’s not spreading positivity, it spreads resentment. It says “I’ve got the salary/time to waste on buying cakes for you people, LOVE ME, LOVE ME”. It really makes me angry. When people used to bring cakes into my office I’d barge to the front then deliberately, and very slowly, lick each cake and put them back on the tray. It’s the only way to teach positive people their behaviour is unacceptable.

Thinking about it, I might have a “things I hate about positive people” paragraph every day on the blog.

Tomorrow – the evil bastards who arrange office birthday cards.

Sheep tossing

Bosh!

Bit more like it. 15km today, at a decent clip. 5.20m/km, which isn’t very fast, but felt easy, which is encouraging. Next week I think I’ll try a proper fast run.

This morning I felt a bit like the Millennium Falcon – in a surprising turn of events I managed to put my back out again by adding my lower back to my upper back and was in absolute agony. This was alongside about 150 other bodily complaints and aches. Decided to take the kids to the “local” leisure centre (20km away, nothing is local in France), as the worst thing you can do with a bad back is give in to it and lie on a bed all day. It basically worked. After 3 hours haring round in a pool and playing a round of tenpin bowling I think my back just shrugged and said “I give up you obstinate bastard” and everything felt a lot better. Still feel like the Kessell run in 1.5 parsecs might be pushing it, but at least I’m in orbit. Don’t want to bore you with health complaints though, nothing worse than someone yabbering on about how ill they are all the time.

We have a small problem at the moment as one of our sheep is in love with one of the goats. It’s a real Romeo and Juliet romance (Romeo and Eweliet?) and Mr BD our ram has taken to jumping out of his pen to go and spread the love with his lady goat friend. Star crossed lovers. Not sure whether a goat and a sheep can actually mate, I suspect not, but it doesn’t seem to be bothering him. What this means is periodically grabbing a horny sheep and putting him back in his pen. I’m sure this did for my back as I elect to lift him over the fence and back in, rather than drag him round to his gate where it becomes a struggle to stop the other sheep escaping.

For upper body strength and toning I can recommend frequently lifting a smelly, horny sheep over a 5 foot high fence. I was thinking of releasing a series of workout DVDs. I bet they’d sell in Wales.

I also watched the last Sherlock, and I have to say it was quite good. Glaring plot holes for sure, but the acting was reasonable and there wasn’t a guy with distractingly large ears in it, so that was a bonus. The funny thing is, I quite like Sherlock but can’t STAND Doctor Who, which is essentially done by the same bloke/team. I really detest wobbly British sci-fi where people all shout, grin and dash around cardboard sets aimlessly fighting tinfoil and cardboard box monsters and no matter how you try to disguise it, the new Doctor Who is just as bad as the old Doctor Who. Sci-fi should be like the Battlestar Galactica reboot (Series 1 to 4, not 5). Sensible, high budget, lots of people looking earnest and shouting at one another and CGI that doesn’t look like it was done on an Amiga.

Which takes us full circle back to the Millenium Falcon again, and my old, crumbling body. I really do feel old at the moment. I know I’m in my mid thirties, and no doubt when I go back and read this blog when I’m 80 and eating jelly through a straw I’ll shake my fist furiously at the screen (or virtual cortical implant, or whatever), but age really does seem to have crept up on me in the last 4 or 5 years. Sigh.

Still, as long as I can still drag myself out for a run now and again…

Sigh

Nothing to report today. Dragged myself at a half run/half walking pace for just over 5km. Knee hurts, bum hurts, head hurts.

Deep breath. Will refocus for tomorrow.

Ultraman!

Why am I running? It’s a question I asked myself today as I plodded for 10km.

(Apologies for the maudlin tone and boring content of today’s blog. Back to fun and japes tomorrow, I promise).

Last year I had a clear goal – to run a marathon. I quite enjoyed it, but it wasn’t something I could really see myself becoming addicted to. I prefer distances between 10k and 21k, and this year I’d set myself a nebulous target of “getting faster” rather than “going further”.

What this means practically is probably running a 10k in under 40 minutes (current PB 43 minutes 47 seconds) and a half marathon in 90 minutes (current PB 107 minutes 13 seconds). Both are within my grasp, assuming I can return to my marathon fitness (and Janathon is doing a good job of that). I also pondered joining a running club, for a bit of motivation, camaraderie and an opportunity to speak French about more general things than cropping and animal husbandry.

So, there are some goals, but there isn’t a GOAL.

Over at rosshendry.com my evil rival for Janathon (for 4 or 5 days until he gave up/got distracted buying socks) revealed this week he was planning an 80km ultra marathon in August. I have to admit I had a slight twinge of jealousy. I’ve always been attracted to wild feats of endurance and you can’t argue that the marathon has lost its lustre somewhat since an unfit Eddie Izzard did 150 of them back to back while eating only ice-cream.

The ultra is the new marathon.

My problem with truly long-distance running is the fact you can’t really fudge the training. Even marathon distance you can muddle through as long as you’re fit – ultimately it’s only going to be 3 or 4 hours of hell, which as long as you’re a reasonable runner is bearable for most people. But beyond that you’re into the realms of serious endurance. I have a lot of admiration for people who can run 50km+, not only as a one off, but day after day after day. While I found the marathon itself fairly “easy” (relatively speaking) the recovery afterwards was painful, and protracted. Admittedly I had pushed fairly hard for the first 30k, but I was amazed at how much it wiped me out. I can only imagine how sore I’d feel if I tried double the distance or more.

I think the biggest sticking point for me is the training. To train for an ultra I think I’d need to be turning 150km a week or more. Last week I did 90km, and that was quite time consuming. 150km+ turns running into a job, not a recreational pursuit. The strain on my ageing body would also be pretty high. I’m not even sure I’m physiologically the right shape to even consider it. To be an ultra runner you need to be a skeleton with muscles attached and not a lot else. I’d fear for my knees and calf muscles.

I’m also worried about the type of people who enter ultras. By and large you’re going to be ranged against hardcore athletes. A marathon usually attracts a contingent of people wearing tutus or running the distance dressed as Bugs Bunny. There’s always going to be someone behind you in a marathon. In an ultra the slowest person is still going to be a force to be reckoned with. While I don’t have an issue with being last, I think I’d rather take part in an event where I was at least finishing among mid-table mediocrity.

So I guess I need to be realistic and put an ultra down as something I’ll try one day, but not this year. I’m not sure if this is cowardice, or realism. Or a mix of the two.

Best of luck to Ross though, and I’m sure he’ll acquit himself admirably.

I AM FAIL

A rest day today.

It wasn’t going to be, but a couple of km into my run I felt completely out of breath and realised I’d forgotton to take a puff of Ventolin before I set out. Asthma doesn’t usually bother me when I’m running, but today was very, very, VERY cold and that can sometimes trigger it. So I sacked it in, called it a rest day and accepted I’d drop a few places in the leader-board. 4km total for the day is pretty poor, especially as my arch rivals all put in mega mileage.  I could go out again now, but I can’t be bothered.

A bit defeatist, yes.

I’ve never been a high achiever though. Most of my life I’ve ambled along selecting the path of least resistance. I have something of a knack for identifying actions that deliver maximum reward for minimum effort. I’ve generally been successful in life using this technique – usually at the expense of diligent hard working people

This behaviour has always extended into my sporting endeavours. I am not a natural winner. I do not have a killer instinct for victory. Once, in university, I managed to lose 24 consecutive games of pool. Fair enough if it was 24 games of pool against one person who was better than me – this was, in fact, a variety of opponents some of whom could barely hold a pool cue and spent most of the time with it stuck up their nose. I’m not a bad pool player but a I have a losers mentality, and by the time I’d fluffed the 7th or 8th game I was so convinced I was going to fail it became a self-fulfilling prophecy. I only won in the end because one of the other players ate a ball or something equally ridiculous. I can’t remember now.

So yesterday’s small flicker of excitement that 6th place in Janathon was within reach was tempered with a realisation that I’d inevitably wake up to find the weekend runners had put the boot in. And sure enough, a quick check this morning saw me falling faster than a Pop Idol’s chart single after a drug scandal. The question is, how to react? A winner would step up to the plate. Grind out the miles. Get back in the fight. Make this a harmless, temporary failure blip not a permanent catastrophe.

But one shambling 4km run later and I’m holed up in front of the TV under a duvet.

I’m going to fight on. I want to be top ten, at least, by the end of January. I’m not sure why. Is there any difference between being 8th or 26th? There are no medals, ticker tape parades or naked dancing girls at the end of this. Just a sense of personal satisfaction.

Which has never, historically, been enough to motivate me to do anything.

Perhaps January 2012 is the month things change. Or perhaps I’ll just spend the next 16 days under this duvet.

Find out tomorrow!

Break-Dancing Long John Silver and the Excuses

Another 10km today. Bland featureless roads. I saw a donkey (not pictured).

I then did a 16km cycle to go and get some milk. Long story, but I do it quite frequently. I might expand on that in a future blog, because I can just tell you’re itching to hear more about it.

No?

Sigh.

I suppose I better write some more.

Lets talk about excuses.

I love excuses.

Finding excuses to avoid doing things is an art form I should be internationally recognised for. For example, when I was supposed to be revising for my A-Level Chemistry exam I discovered I absolutely had to watch as much cricket as possible on the television. I didn’t even like cricket. (I got an E in the exam too, which just adds another thing about cricket I don’t like to the already long list). What was amazing was the irresistible pull that cricket exerted on me.

It proves that anything other than thing you’re supposed to be doing is normally far more interesting than the thing you’re supposed to be doing.

(I know. I read that sentence twice too and it doesn’t make any sense. Try to imagine Bob Dylan singing it; that helps).

At this time of year I see people making broad, sweeping gestures about how in 2012 they’re going to change their lives and sort themselves out. Run, swim, wrestle an alligator daily, whatever floats their boat. All in the name of losing weight, getting buff and avoiding a painful, lonely, early death (I kind of added the last one). But most people, like me, would rather do anything as long as it isn’t exercise. Exercising for a while is fun. Getting out there day, after day, in the wind, rain and snow is less fun. Doing it for months or years when you’d rather be gradually filling out sideways and developing a double chin is even less fun again.

It’s a war. A war of man vs. excuse. A war of man vs. putting-it-off-till tomorrow.

When I worked as a corporate drone, employed to sit behind a desk poking a keyboard occasionally while drinking small cups of coffee and eating Boost bars until I felt nauseous (that’s what I put on the CV anyway) I used to revel in thinking of new and creative excuses as to why I couldn’t possibly run. I didn’t see myself a runner. I cycled. I swam. But running? Noooo. I needed an excuse.

The ace-in-the-hole was my ankle. From birth I had a strange growth on the side of it. As the growth subsided it left a strange chewed up shape which was a sort of greeny-blue in colour and covered in red sprinkles. 200 years ago I’d have been burnt for being a demon, but as I was born in modern West Wales they settled for putting me in a sack and dropping me in the Ystwyth.

I often ask my parents what the medical term was for my defective part, but they can’t remember. As an only child, I can appreciate how my birth deformity might not be particularly memorable.

(I digress slightly, but the nebulaic explosion of ankle colour always looked so cool I sort of hoped an alien race had tattooed it on my body as a starchart that would make me a critical asset in an interstellar war, and that inevitably one day the aliens would return to beg me to lead their spacefleet. To date this hasn’t happened, but I’m not giving up all hope.)

Anyhoo, said wonky ankle always made my gait a touch weird. My strange malformed appendage made me gallop with all the elegance of a break-dancing Long John Silver. Add in a dash of asthma, and I was set for a lifetime of denial and double chin building. I could barely walk without wheezing and wobbling like Mr Blobby. What hope running?

Last year, something snapped inside me. I was 35. I didn’t walk into the valley of the double chin blindly. I didn’t want to get out of breath when picking my nose. Hell, I wanted to fight those excuses. I wanted to see if that gammy, deformed leg could propel me to glory. To my surprise it actually could. I could run! Once the excuses were gone I actually found sticking to my new hobby was vaguely enjoyable. Indeed, when I was injured in November and December and couldn’t get out to run I actually felt almost sad about it. GASP.

That’s when I knew I’d gone beyond the excuses. (insert rousing string section here)

Thankfully there are still plenty of things in my life I avoid doing. Many of them too revolting, personal or offensive to list here, but just let it be known that running helped me on a voyage of personal discovery.

It might not have been a voyage to the head of the Arxian space force, where I repelled the Xurg menace using a weapon I located because of a starchart on my ankle, but it’s not far off.

Getting fit isn’t about saying you’re going to do it, and planning how. It’s about working out why you’re going to avoid doing it and then addressing that.

Wow. That was glib. I should be writing articles for Bella magazine.

Till tomorrow! Joggetty-loggetty-bloggety-boo!

Sport
Running
Start Time
Jan 2, 2012 10:37 AM
Distance
10.00 km
Duration
54m:34s
Avg Speed
5:27 min/km
Max Speed
4:32 min/km
Calories
930 kcal
Altitude
116 m / 174 m
Elevation
61 m ↑ / 51 m ↓
Heart Rate
– / –
Sport
Cycling, sport
Start Time
Jan 2, 2012 6:18 PM
Distance
16.29 km
Duration
49m:26s
Avg Speed
19.8 km/h
Max Speed
35.4 km/h
Calories
570 kcal
Altitude
145 m / 172 m
Elevation
30 m ↑ / 31 m ↓
Heart Rate
– / –

http://www.endomondo.com/workouts/32761678